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THE  CHARNEL  ROSE,  and  Other  Poems 


THE  JIG  OF  FORSLIN,  A  Symphony 

TURNS  AND  MOVIES,  and  Other  Tales  in  Verse 

EARTH  TRIUMPHANT,  and  Other  Tales  in  Verse 






Copyright,  ipi8f  by 


The    Four    Seas    Press 
Boston,  Mass.,  U.  S.  A. 




SENLIN  :  A  BIOGRAPHY  .  .  .  .  .n 
VARIATIONS:  I-XVIII  .  .  .  ^-  2-"t>7 



/.     His  Dark  Origins 


Senlin  sits  before  us,  and  we  see  him  .  .  . 
He  smokes  his  pipe  before  us,  and  we  hear  him  .  .  . 
Is  he  small,  with  reddish  hair, 
Does  he  light  his  pipe  with  a  meditative  stare, 
And  a  pointed  flame  reflected  in  both  eyes? 
To  he  sad  and  happy  and  foolish  and  wise?  .  .  . 
Did  no  one  see  him  enter  the  doors  of  the  city, 
Looking  about  him  at  roofs  and  trees  and  skies?  .  .  . 
'I  stepped  from  a  cloud/  he  says,  'as  evening  fell, 
I  walked  on  the  sound  of  a  bell ; 
I  ran  with  winged  heels  along  a  gust; 
Or  is  it  true  that  I  laughed  and  sprang  from  the 

dust?  .  .  . 

Has  no  one,  in  a  great  autumnal  forest, 
When  the  wind  bares  the  trees  with  mournful  tone, 
Heard  the  sad  horn  of  Senlin  slowly  blown?  .  .  . 
Has  no  one,  on  a  mountain  in  the  spring, 
Heard  Senlin  sing? 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Perhaps  I  came  alone  on  a  snow-white  horse, 
Riding  alone  from  the  deep-starred  night. 
Perhaps  I  came  on  a  ship  whose  sails  were  music, 
Sailing  from  moon  or  sun  on  a  river  of  light.' 

He    lights    his    pipe    with    a    streaked    and    pointed 

flame  .  .  . 

'Yet,  there  were  many  autumns  before  I  came, 
And  many  springs.     And  more  will  come,  long  after 
There  is  no  horn  from  me,  or  song,  or  laughter.' 

The  city  dissolves  about  us,  and  its  walls 

Become  an  ancient  forest.     There  is  no  sound 

Except  where  an  old  twig  tires  and  falls; 

Or  a  lizard  among  the  dead  leaves  crawls ; 

Or  a  flutter  is  heard  in  darkness  along  the  ground. 

Has  Senlin  become  a  forest?     Do  we  walk  in  Senlin? 

Is    Senlin    the    wood    we    walk    in, — ourselves, — the 

world  ? 

Senlin !  we  cry  .  .  .   Senlin !  again  .  .  .   No  answer, 
Only  soft  broken  echoes  backward  hurled  .  .  . 

Y#  we  would  say  this  is  no  wood  at  all, 
But  a  small  white  room  with  lights  upon  the  wall ; 
And  Senlin,  before  us,  pale,  with  reddish  hair, 
Lights  his  pipe  with  a  meditative  stare. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


Senlin,  walking  beside  us,  swings  his  arms 
And  turns  his  head  to  look  at  walls  and  trees. 
The  wind  comes  whistling  from  the  shrill  stars  of 


The  lights  are  jewels,  the  black  roots  freeze. 
'Did  I,  then,  stretch  from  the  bitter  earth  like  these, 
Reaching  upward  with  slow  and  rigid  pain 
To  seek,  in  another  air,  myself  again?'  .  .  . 
(Immense  and  solitary  in  a  desert  of  rocks 
Behold  a  bewildered  oak 
With    white    clouds    screaming    through    its    leafy 

brain!  .  .  .  ) 

'Or  was  I  the  single  ant,  or  tinier  thing, 
That  crept  from  the  rocks  of  buried  time 
And  dedicated  its  holy  life  to  climb 
From  atom  to  beetling  atom,  jagged  grain  to  grain, 
Patiently  out  of  the  darkness  we  call  sleep 
Into  the  hollow  gigantic  world  of  light 
Thinking  the  sky  to  be  its  destined  shell, 
Hoping  to  fit  it  well ! — ' 

The  city  dissolves  about  us ;  and  its  walls 

Are  mountainous  rocks  cruelly  carved  with  wind; 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Sand  streams  down  their  wasting  sides,  and  sand 
Mounts  upward  slowly  about  them :   foot  and  hand 
We  crawl  and  bleed  among  them.     Is  this  Senlin? 
In  the  desert  of  Senlin  must  we  live  and  die? 
We  hear  the  decay  of  rocks,  the  crash  of  boulders, 
The  snarling  of  sand  on  sand.     'Senlin!'  we  cry. 
'Senlin!'  again  .  .  .   Our  shadows  revolve  in  silence 
Under  the  soulless  brilliance  of  blue  sky  .  .  . 

Yet  we  would  say  these  are  no  rocks  at  all, 
Nor  desert  of  sand  ...   for  here  by  a  city  wall 
White  lights  jewel  the  evening,  black  roots  freeze, 
And  Senlin  turns  his  head  to  look  at  trees, 

Senlin:    A  Biography 


It  is  evening,  Senlin  says,  and  in  the  evening, 
By  a  silent  shore,  by  a  far  distant  sea, 
White  unicorns  come  gravely  down  to  the  water. 
In  the  lilac  dusk  they  come,  they  are  white  and  stately, 
Stars  hang  over  the  purple  waveless  sea; 
A  sea  on  which  no  sail  was  ever  lifted, 
Where  a  human  voice  was  never  heard. 
The  shadows  of  vague  hills  are  dark  on  the  water, 
The  silent  stars  seem  silently  to  sing. 
And  gravely  come  white  unicorns  down  to  the  water, 
One  by  one  they  come  and  drink  their  fill ; 
And  daisies  shine  like  stars  on  the  darkened  hill  .  .  . 

It  is  evening,  Senlin  says,  and  in  the  evening 

The  leaves  on  the  trees,  abandoned  by  the  light, 

Look  to  the  earth,  and  whisper,  and  are  still. 

The  bat   with  horned  wings,   tumbling  through   the 


Breaks  the  web,  and  the  spider  falls  to  the  ground. 
The  starry  dewdrop  gathers  upon  the  oakleaf, 
Clings  to  the  edge,  and  falls  without  a  sound. 
Do  maidens  spread  their  white  palms  to  the  starlight 
And  walk  three  steps  to  the  east  and  clearly  sing? 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Do  dewdrops  fall  like  a  shower  of  stars  from  willows? 

Has  the  small  moon  a  ghostly  ring?  .  .  . 

White  skeletons  dance  on  the  moonlit  grass, 

Singing  maidens  are  buried  in  deep  graves, 

The  stars  hang  over  a  sea  like  polished  glass  .  .  . 

And  solemnly  one  by  one  in  the  darkness  there 

Neighing  far  off  on  the  haunted  air 

White  unicorns  come  gravely  down  to  the  water  .  .  . 

No  silver  bells  are  heard.     The  westering  moon 

Lights  the  pale  floors  of  caverns  by  the  sea. 

Wet  weed  hangs  on  the  rock.     In  shimmering  pools 

Left  on  the  rocks  by  the  receding  sea 

Starfish  slowly  turn  their  white  and  brown 

Or  writhe  on  the  naked  rocks  and  drown. 

Do    sea-girls   haunt  these   caves — do   we   hear    faint 


Do  we  hear  from  under  the  sea  a  thin  bell  ringing  ? 
Was  that  a  white  hand  lifted  among  the  bubbles 
And  fallen  softly  back? 
No,  these  shores  and  caverns  all  are  silent, 
Dead  in  the  moonlight ;  only,  far  above, 
On  the  smooth  contours  of  these  headlands, 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

White  amid  the  eternal  black, 
One  by  one  in  the  moonlight  there 
Neighing  far  off  on  the  haunted  air 
The  unicorns  come  down  to  the  sea. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


Senlin,  walking  before  us  in  the  sunlight, 

Bending  his  long  legs  in  a  peculiar  way, 

Goes  to  his  work  with  thoughts  of  the  universe. 

His  hands  are  in  his  pockets,  he  smokes  his  pipe, 

He  is  happily  conscious  of  roofs  and  skies; 

And,  without  turning  his  head,  he  turns  his  eyes 

To  regard  white  horses  drawing  a  small  white  hearse. 

The  sky  is  brilliant  between  the  roofs, 
The  windows  flash  in  the  yellow  sun, 
On  the  hard  pavement  ring  the  hoofs, 
The  light  wheels  softly  run. 
Bright  particles  of  sunlight  fall, 
Quiver  and  flash,  gyrate  and  burn, 
Honey-like  heat  flows  down  the  wall, 
The  white  spokes  dazzle  and  turn  .  .  . 

Senlin  walking  before  us  in  the  sunlight 
Regards  the  hearse  with  an  introspective  eye. 
'Is  it  my  childhood  there/  he  asks, 
'Sealed  in  a  hearse  and  hurrying  by?' 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

He  taps  with  his  trowel  against  a  stone; 
The  trowel  sings  with  a  silver  tone. 

'Neverthless,  I  know  this  well. 
Bury  it  deep  and  toll  a  bell, 
Bury  it  under  land  or  sea, 
You  cannot  bury  it  save  in  me.' 

It  is  as  if  his  soul  had  become  a  city, 

With    noisily    peopled    streets,    and    through    these 


Senlin  himself  comes  driving  a  small  white  hearse.  .  . 
'Senlin !'  we  cry.     He  does  not  turn  his  head. 
But  is  that  Senlin? — or  is  this  city  Senlin, — 
Quietly  watching  the  burial  of  its  dead? 
Dumbly  observing  the  cortege  of  its  dead? 

Yet  we  would  say  that  all  this  is  but  madness : 
Around  a  distant  corner  turns  the  hearse. 
And  Senlin  walks  before  us  in  the  sunlight 
Happily  conscious  of  his  universe. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


In  the  hot  noon,  in  an  old  and  savage  garden, 

The  peach-tree  grows.     Its  ugly  cruel  roots 

Rend  and  rifle  the  silent  earth  for  moisture. 

Above,  in  the  blue,  hang  warm  and  golden  fruits. 

Look,  how  the  cancerous  roots  crack  mould  and  stone ! 

Earth,  if  she  had  a  voice,  would  wail  her  pain. 

Is  she  the  victim?     Or  is  the  tree  the  victim?  .  .  . 

Delicate  blossoms  opened  in  the  rain, 

Black  bees  flew  among  them  in  the  sunlight, 

And  sacked  them  ruthlessly ;  and  now  a  bird 

Hangs,  sharp-eyed,  in  the  leaves,  and  pecks  at  the 

And    the    peach-tree    dreams,    and    does    not    say    a 

word  . 

.  .  Senlin,  tapping  his  trowel  against  a  stone, 
bserves  this  tree  he  planted :  it  is  his  own  .  .  . 


'You  will  think  it  strange/  says  Senlin,  'but  this  tree 

Utters  profound  things  in  this  garden, 

And  in  its  silence  speaks  to  me. 

I  have  sensations,  when  I  stand  beneath  it, 

As  if  its  leaves  looked  at  me,  and  could  see: 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

And  these  thin  leaves,  even  in  windless  air, 

Seem  to  be  whispering  me  a  choral  music 

Insubstantial  but  debonair. 

"Regard,"  they  seem  to  say, 

"Our  idiot  root,  which  going  its  brutal  way 

Has  cracked  your  garden  wall ! 

Ugly,  is  it  not? 

A  desecration  of  this  place  .  .  . 

And  yet,  without  it,  could  we  exist  at  all?" 

Thus,  rustling  with  importance,  they  seem  to  me 

To  make  their  apology; 

And  while  they  apologize 

Ask  me  a  wary  question  with  their  eyes. 

Yes,  it  is  true  their  origin  is  low — 

Brutish  and  dull  and  cruel  .  .  .   and  it  is  true 

Their  roots  have  cracked  the  wall.     But  do  we  know 

The  leaves  less  cruel — the  root  less  beautiful? 

Sometimes  it  seems  as  if  there  grew 

In  the  dull  garden  of  my  mind 

A  tree  like  this,  which,  singing  with  delicate  leaves, 

Yet  cracks  the  walls  with  cruel  roots  and  blind. 

Sometimes,  indeed,  it  appears  to  me 

That  I  myself  am  such  a  tree  .  .  .' 


The  Charnel  Rose 

.  .  .  And  as  we  hear  from  Senlin  these  strange  words 
So,  slowly,  in  the  sunlight,  he  becomes  this  tree : 
And  among  the  pleasant  leaves  hang  sharp-eyed  birds 
While  cruel  roots  dig  downward  secretly. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


Rustling  among  his  odds  and  ends  of  knowledge 

Suddenly,  to  his  wonder,  Senlin  finds 

How  Cleopatra  and  Senebtisi 

Were  dug  by  many  hands  from  ancient  tombs  .  .  . 

Cloth  after  scented  cloth  the  sage  unwinds : 

Delicious,  to  see  our  futile  modern  sunlight 

Dance  like  a  harlot  among  those  Times  and  Dooms 

First,  the  huge  pyramid,  with  rock  on  rock 

Bloodily  piled  to  heaven;  and  under  this 

A  deep-dug  cavern,  bat-festooned; 

And  here  in  rows  on  rows,  with  gods  about  them, 

Cloudily  lustrous,  dim,  the  sacred  coffins, 

Silver-starred  and  crimson-mooned. 

What  holy  secret  shall  we  now  uncover? 
Inside  the  outer  coffin  is  a  second, 
Inside  the  second,  smaller,  lies  a  third. 
This  one  is  carved,  and  like  a  human  body; 
And  painted  over  with  fish  and  bull  and  bird  .  .  , 
Here  are  men  walking  stiffly  in  procession, 
Blowing  horns  or  lifting  spears; 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Where  do  they  march  to  ?  Where  do  they  come  from  ? 
Soft  whine  of  horns  is  in  our  ears  .  .  . 

Inside  the  third,  a  fourth  .  .  .   and  this  the  artist,— 
A  priest,  perhaps? — did  most  to  make  resemble 
The  flesh  of  her  who  lies  within. 
The  brown  eyes  widely  stare  at  the  bat-hung  ceiling. 
The  hair  is  black,  the  mouth  is  thin. 

Princess  !   Secret  of  life !  We  come  to  praise  you  .  .  . 
The  torch  is  lowered,  this  coffin  too  we  open, 
And  the  dark  air  is  sweet  with  musk  and  myrrh  .  .  . 
Here  are  the  thousand  white  and  scented  wrappings, 
The  gilded  face  and  jewelled  eyes  of  her  .  .  . 

And  now  the  body  itself,  brown,  gaunt,  and  ugly, 
And  the  hollow  skull,  in  which  the  brains  are  withered, 
Lie  bare  before  us.    Princess,  is  this  all?  .  .  . 
Something  there  was  we  asked  that  is  not  answered .  .  . 
Soft  bats,  in  rows,  hang  on  the  lustred  wall  .  .  . 

And  all  we  hear  is  a  sound  of  ghostly  music, 
Of  brass  horns  dustily  raised  and  briefly  blown, 
And  a  cry  of  grief,  and  men  in  a  stiff  procession 
Marching  away  and  softly  gone. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


'And  am  I,  then,  a  pyramid?'  says  Senlin  .  .  . 
'In  which  are  caves  and  coffins,  where  lies  hidden 
Some  old  and  mocking  hieroglyph  of  flesh?  .  .  . 
Or  am  I  rather  the  moonlight,  spreading  subtly 
Above  those  stones  and  times  a  silver  mesh?  .  .  . 
Or  the  dark  blade  of  grass  that  bravely  grows 
Between  two  massive  boulders  of  black  basalt 
Year  after  year,  and  blows  and  fades  and  blows?* 

Senlin,  sitting  before  us  in  the  lamplight, 
Laughs  and  lights  his  pipe.     The  yellow  flame 
Minutely  flares  in  his  eyes,  minutely  dwindles  .  .  . 
Does  a  blade  of  grass  have  Senlin  for  a  name?  .  .  . 
Yet  we  would  say  that  we  have  seen  him  somewhere, 
A  tiny  spear  of  green  beneath  the  blue, 
Playing  his  destiny  in  a  sun-warmed  crevice 
With  the  gigantic  fates  of  frost  and  dew. 

Does  a  spider  come  and  spin  his  gossamer  ladder, 
Rung  by  silver  rung, 

Chaining  it  fast  to  Senlin?    Its  faint  shadow 
Flung,  waveringly,  where  his  is  flung? 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Does  a  raindrop  dazzle  starlike  down  his  length 
Trying  his  futile  strength? 

A  snowflake  startle  him?     The  stars  defeat  him? 
Through  aeons  of  dusk  have  birds  above  him  sung? 

Time  is  a  wind,  says  Senlin ;  time,  like  music 
Blows  over  us  its  mournful  beauty,  passes, 
And  leaves  behind  a  shadow  recollection, — 
A  helpless  gesture  of  mist  above  the  grasses. 


Senlin:   A  Biography 


In  the  cold  blue  lucid  dusk  before  the  sunrise, 
One  yellow  star  sings  over  a  peak  of  snow, 
And  melts  and  vanishes  in  a  light  like  roses  .  .  . 
Through  slanting  mist  black  rocks  appear  and  glow. 

The  clouds  flow  downward,  slowly  as  grey  glaciers, 
Or  up  to  pale  rose-azure  pass. 

The  blue  streams  tinkle  down  from  snow  to  boulders, 
From  boulders  to  white  grass. 

Icicles  on  the  pine  tree  melt 

And  softly  flash  in  the  sun : 

In  long  straight  lines  the  star-drops  fall 

One  by  one. 

Is  a  voice  heard  while  the  shadows  still  are  long, 
Borne  slowly  down  on  the  sparkled  air? 
Is  a  thin  bell  heard  from  the  peak  of  silence? 
Is  someone  among  the  high  snows  there?  .  .  . 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Where    the    blue    stream    flows    coldly    among    the 


And  mist  still  clings  to  rock  and  tree 
Senlin  walks  alone;   and  from  that  twilight 
Looks  darkly  up,  to  see 

The  calm  unmoving  peak  of  snow-white  silence, 
The  rocks  aflame  with  ice,  the  rose-blue  sky  .  .  . 
Ghost-like,  a  cloud  descends  from  twinkling  ledges, 
To  nod  before  the  dwindling  sun  and  die. 

'Something  there  is/  says  Senlin,  'in  that  mountain, 
Something  forgotten  now,  that  once  I  knew  .  .  .' 
We  walk  before  a  sun-tipped  peak  in  silence, 
Our  shadows  descend  before  us,  long  and  blue. 


Senlin:   A  Biography 

//.     His  Futile  Preoccupations 


'I  am  a  house,'  says  Senlin,  'locked  and  darkened, 
Sealed  from  the  sun  with  wall  and  door  and  blind. 
Summon  me  loudly  and  you'll  hear  slow  footsteps 
Ring  far  and  faint  in  the  galleries  of  my  mind. 
You'll  hear  soft  steps  on  an  old  and  dusty  stairway ; 
Peer  darkly  through  some  corner  of  a  pane 
You'll  see  me  with  a  faint  light  coming  slowly, 
Pausing  above  some  balcony  of  the  brain  .  .  . 

I  am  a  city  ...   In  the  blue  light  of  evening 

Wind  wanders  among  my  streets  and  makes  them  fair ; 

I  am  a  desolate  room  ...   a  maiden  dances 

Lifting  her  pale  hands,  tossing  her  golden  hair  .  .  . 

She  combs  her  hair,  the  bare  white  room  is  darkened, 

She  extends  herself  in  me,  and  I  am  sleep. 

It  is  my  pride  that  starlight  is  above  me, 

I  dream  amid  waves  of  air,  my  walls  are  deep. 

I  am  a  door  .  .  .   before  me  roils  the  darkness, 
Behind  me  ring  clear  waves  of  sound  and  light. 
Stand  in  the  shadowy  street  outside,  and  listen — 
The  crying  of  violins  assails  the  night  .  .  . 


The  Charnel  Rose 

My  walls  are  deep,  but  the  cries  of  music  pierce  them ; 
They  shake  with  the  sound  of  drums  .  .  .  yet  it  is 


That  I  should  know  so  little  what  means  this  music, 
Hearing  it  always  within  me  change  and  change. 

Knock  on  the  door, — and  you  shall  have  an  answer ! 

Open  the  heavy  walls  to  set  me  free, 

And  blow  a  horn  to  call  me  into  the  sunlight, — 

And  startled  then  what  a  strange  thing  you  shall  see ! 

Nuns,  murderers,  and  drunkards,  saints  and  sinners, 

Lover  and  dancing  girl  and  sage  and  clown 

Will  laugh  upon  you,  and  you  will  find  me  nowhere . . . 

I  am  a  room,  a  house,  a  street,  a  town. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


It  is  morning,  Senlin  says,  and  in  the  morning 
When  the  light  drips  through  the  shutters  like  the  dew, 
I  arise,  I  face  the  sunrise, 
And  do  the  things  my  fathers  learned  to  do. 
Stars  in  the  purple  dusk  above  the  rooftops 
Pale  in  a  saffron  mist  and  seem  to  die, 
And  I  myself  on  a  swiftly  tilting  planet 
Stand  before  a  glass  and  tie  my  tie. 

Vine  leaves  tap  my  window, 
Dew-drops  sing  to  the  garden  stones, 
The  robin  chirps  in  the  chinaberry  tree 
Repeating  three  clear  tones. 

It  is  morning.     I  stand  by  the  mirror 

And  tie  my  tie  once  more. 

While  waves  far  off  in  a  pale  rose  twilight 

Crash  on  a  white  sand  shore. 

I  stand  by  a  mirror  and  comb  my  hair : 

How  small  and  white  my  face ! — 

The  green  earth  tilts  through  a  sphere  of  air 

And  bathes  in  a  flame  of  space. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

There  are  houses  hanging  above  the  stars 
And  stars  hung  under  a  sea  .  .  . 
And  a  sun  far  off  in  a  shell  of  silence 
Dapples  my  walls  for  me  ... 

It  is  morning,  Senlin  says,  and  in  the  morning 
Should  I  not  pause  in  the  light  to  remember  god? 
Upright  and  firm  I  stand  on  a  star  unstable, 
He  is  immense  and  lonely  as  a  cloud. 
I  will  dedicate  this  moment  before  my  mirror 
To  him  alone,  for  him  I  will  comb  my  hair. 
Accept  these  humble  offerings,  cloud  of  silence! 
I  will  think  of  you  as  I  descend  the  stair. 

Vine  leaves  tap  my  window, 
The  snail-track  shines  on  the  stones, 
Dew-drops  flash  from  the  chinaberry  tree 
Repeating  two  clear  tones. 

It  is  morning,  I  awake  from  a  bed  of  silence, 
Shining  I  rise  from  the  starless  waters  of  sleep. 
The  walls  are  about  me  still  as  in  the  evening, 
I  am  the  same,  and  the  same  name  still  I  keep. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

The  earth  revolves  with  me,  yet  makes  no  motion, 
The  stars  pale  silently  in  a  coral  sky. 
In  a  whistling  void  I  stand  before  my  mirror, 
Unconcerned,  and  tie  my  tie. 

There  are  horses  neighing  on  far-off  hills 
Tossing  their  long  white  manes, 
And  mountains  flash  in  the  rose-white  dusk, 
Their  shoulders  black  with  rains  .  .  . 
It  is  morning.     I  stand  by  the  mirror 
And  surprise  my  soul  once  more; 
The  blue  air  rushes  above  my  ceiling, 
There  are  suns  beneath  my  floor  .  .  . 

...  It  is  morning,  Senlin  says,  I  ascend  from  darkness 
And  depart  on  the  winds  of  space  for  I  know  not 


My  watch  is  wound,  a  key  is  in  my  pocket, 
And  the  sky  is  darkened  as  I  descend  the  stair. 
There   are   shadows   across   the  windows,   clouds   in 


And  a  god  among  the  stars ;  and  I  will  go 
Thinking  of  him  as  I  might  think  of  daybreak 
And  humming  a  tune  I  know  .  .  . 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Vine-leaves  tap  at  the  window, 
Dew-drops  sing  to  the  garden  stones, 
The  robin  chirps  in  the  chinaberry  tree 
Repeating  three  clear  tones. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


I  walk  to  my  work,  says  Senlin,  along  a  street 
Superbly  hung  in  space. 
I  lift  these  mortal  stones,  and  with  my  trowel 
I  tap  them  into  place  .  .  . 
But  is  god,  perhaps,  a  giant  who  ties  his  tie 
Grimacing  before  a  colossal  glass  of  sky? 

These  stones  are  heavy,  these  stones  decay, 
These  stones  are  wet  with  rain, 
I  build  them  into  a  wall  to-day, 
To-morrow  they  fall  again  .  .  . 

Does  god  arise  from  a  chaos  of  starless  sleep, 
Rise  from  the  dark  and  stretch  his  arms  and  yawn ; 
And  drowsily  look  from  the  window  at  his  garden; 
And  rejoice  at  the  dewdrops  sparkling  on  his  lawn? 
Does  he  remember,  suddenly,  with  amazement, 
The  yesterday  he  left  in  sleep, — his  name, — 
Or  the  glittering  street  superbly  hung  in  wind 
Along  which  in  the  dusk  he  slowly  came?  .  .  . 


The  Charnel  Rose 

I  devise  new  patterns  for  laying  stones 
And  build  a  stronger  wall. 
One  drop  of  rain  astonishes  .me 
And  I  let  my  trowel  fall. 

The  flashing  of  leaves  delights  my  eyes, 

Blue  air  delights  my  face; 

I  will  dedicate  this  stone  to  god 

As  I  tap  it  into  its  place. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


That  woman — did  she  try  to  attract  my  attention? 
Is  it  true  I  saw  her  smile  and  nod? 
She  turned  her  head  and  smiled  .  .  .   was  it  for  me? 
It  is  better  to  think  of  work  or  god. 

The  clouds  pile  coldly  above  the  houses, 
Slow  wind  revolves  in  the  leaves : 
It  begins  to  rain,  and  the  first  long  drops 
Are  slantingly  blown  from  eaves. 

But  it  is  true  she  tried  to  attract  my  attention ! 
She  pressed  a  rose  to  her  chin  and  smiled. 
Her  hand  was  white  by  the  richness  of  her  hair, 
Her  eyes  were  those  of  a  child. 
It  is  true  she  looked  at  me  as  if  she  liked  me, 
And  turned  away,  afraid  to  look  too  long!  .  .  . 
She  watched  me  out  of  the  corners  of  her  eyes; 
And,  tapping  time  with  fingers,  hummed  a  song  .  .  . 

.  .  .  Nevertheless,  I  will  think  of  work, 
With  a  trowel  in  my  hands ; 
Or  the  vague  god  who  blows  like  clouds 
Above  these  dripping  lands  .  .  . 


The  Charnel  Rose 

But  ...  is  it  sure  she  tried  to  attract  my  atten 
tion?  .  .  . 

She  leaned  her  elbow  in  a  peculiar  way 

There  in  the  crowded  room  ...  she  touched  my 
hand  .  .  . 

She  must  have  known  it,  and  yet, — she  let  it  stay  .  . 

Music  of  flesh !     Music  of  root  and  sod ! 

Leaf  touching  leaf  in  the  wind  and  the  rain !  .  .  . 

Impalpable  clouds  of  red  ascend, 

Red  clouds  blow  over  my  brain. 

Did  she  await  from  me  some  sign  of  acceptance?  . 

I  smoothed  my  hair  with  a  faltering  hand. 

I  started  a  feeble  smile,  but  the  smile  was  frozen : 

Perhaps,  I  thought,  I  misunderstand  .  .  . 

Is  it  to  be  conceived  that  I  could  attract  her — 

This  dull  and  futile  flesh  attract  such  fire? 

I, — with  a  trowel's  dulness  in  hand  and  brain! — 

Take  on  some  godlike  aspect,  rouse  desire?  . 

Incredible!  .  .  .   delicious!  ...   I  will  wear 
A  brighter  color  of  tie,  arranged  with  care; 
I  will  delight  in  god  as  I  comb  my  hair  .  .  . 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

And  the  conquests  of  my  bolder  past  return 

Like  strains  of  music,  weaving  some  old  tune 

Recalled  from  youth  and  a  happier  time. 

I  take  my  sweetheart's  arm  in  the  dusk  once  more ; 

Once  more  we  laugh,  and  hold  our  breath,  and  climb 

Up  the  forbidden  stairway,  floor  by  floor, 
Under  the  flickering  lights,  along  old  railings : 
I  catch  her  hand  in  the  dark,  we  laugh  once  more, 
I  hear  the  rustle  of  silk,  and  follow  swiftly, 
And  softly  at  last  we  close  the  door  .  .  . 

Yes,  it  is  true  that  woman  tried  to  attract  me : 

It  is  true  she  came  out  of  time  for  me, 

Came  from  the  swirling  and  savage  forests  of  earth, 

The  cruel  eternity  of  the  sea. 

She  parted  the  leaves  of  waves  and  rose  from  the 


Shining  with  secrets  she  did  not  know. 
Music  of  dust !     Music  of  web  and  web ! 
And  I,  bewildered,  let  her  go  ... 

I  light  my  pipe.     The  flame  is  yellow, 
Edged  underneath  with  blue. 
These  thoughts  are  truer  of  god,  perhaps, 
Than  thoughts  of  god  are  true. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

It  is  noontime,  Senlin  says,  and  a  street  piano 

Strikes  sharply  against  the  sunshine  a  harsh  chord, 

And  the  universe  is  suddenly  agitated, 

And  pain  to  my  heart  goes  glittering  like  a  sword. 

Do  I  imagine  it?     The  dust  is  shaken, 

The  sunlight  quivers,  the  brittle  oak-leaves  tremble. 

The  world,  disturbed,  conceals  its  agitation; 

And  I,  too,  will  dissemble  .  .  . 

Yet  it  is  sorrow  has  found  my  heart, 
Sorrow  for  beauty,  sorrow  for  death, 
And  pain  twirls  slowly  among  the  trees 
And  falls  like  a  languid  breath. 

The  street-piano  revolves  its  glittering  music, 
The  sharp  notes  flash  and  dazzle  and  turn. 
Memory's  knives  are  in  this  sunlit  silence; 
They  ripple  and  twinkle  and  lazily  burn  .  .  . 
The  star  on  which  my  shadow  falls  is  frightened, 
It  does  not  move ;  my  trowel  taps  a  stone, 
The  sweet  note  wavers  amid  derisive  music, 
And  I,  in  a  horror  of  sunlight,  stand  alone. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

Do  not  recall  my  weakness,  savage  music ! 

Let  the  knives  rest !  .  .  . 

Impersonal,  harsh,  the  music  revolves  and  glitters, 

And  the  notes  like  poinards  pierce  my  breast. 

The  leaves  on  the  bush  are  shrivelled  and  shaken  and 


The  dust  is  vibrant,  the  frayed  leaves  fall ; 
And  I  alone  in  a  streaming  silence  of  sunlight 
Wait  among  shafts  of  sorrow,  and  recall 

The  face  of  a  friend  forgotten,  the  hands  of  children, 

Leaves  on  a  morning  of  frost,  the  bewildered  cry 

Of  a  girl  who  walked  in  the  cool  green  dawn  of  beauty 

And  learned  she  had  to  die  ... 

And  I  remember  the  shadows  of  webs  on  stones, 

And  the  sound  of  rain  on  tired  grass, 

And  a  sorrowful  face  that  looked  without  illusions 

At  its  image  in  the  glass  .  .  . 

Do  not  recall  my  childhood,  pitiless  music ! 
The  green  blades  flicker  and  gleam, 
The  red  bee  bends  the  clover,  deeply  humming, 
In  the  blue  sea  above  me  lazily  stream 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Cloud  upon  thin-blown  cloud,  revolving,  scattering, 
The  mulberry  trees  rake  heaven  and  drop  their  fruit, 
Amazing  sunlight  sings  in  the  opened  vault 
On  dust  and  bones  and  webs ;  and  I  am  mute. 

It  is  noon;  the  bells  let  fall  soft  flowers  of  sound. 
They  turn  on  the  air,  they  shrink  in  the  flare  of  noon. 
It  is  night,  and  I  lie  alone,  and  watch  through  the 


The  terrible  ice- white  emptiness  of  the  moon. 
Small  bells,  far  off,  spill  jewels  of  sound  like  rain, 
A  long  wind  hurries  them  whirled  and  far, 
A  cloud  creeps  over  the  moon,  my  bed  is  darkened, 
I  hold  my  breath  and  watch  a  star. 

Do  not  disturb  my  memories,  heartless  music! 

I  stand  once  more  by  a  vine-dark  moonlit  wall, 

The  sound  of  my  footsteps  dies  in  a  void  of  moonlight, 

And  I  watch  white  roses  softly  fall. 

Is  it  my  heart  that  falls?     Does  earth  itself 

Drift,  a  white  petal,  silently  down  the  sky? 

One   bell-note   goes   to    the    stars    in   the   blue-white 

Solitary  and  mournful,  a  somnolent  cry. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


Death  himself  in  the  rain  .  .  .   death  himself  .  . 

Death  in  the  savage  sunlight  .  .  .   skeletal  death  . 

I  hear  the  clack  of  his  feet, 

Clearly  on  stones,  softly  in  dust, 

Speeding  among  the  trees  with  whistling  breath, 

Whirling  the  leaves,  tossing  his  hands  from  waves  . 

Listen !    the  immortal  footsteps  beat  and  beat !  .  . 

Death  himself  in  the  grass,  death  himself, 
Gyrating  invisibly  in  the  sun, 
Scattering  grass-blades,  whipping  the  wind, 
Tearing  at  boughs  with  malignant  laughter  .  .  . 
On  the  long  echoing  air  I  hear  him  run ! 

Death  himself  in  the  dusk,  gathering  lilacs, 

Breaking  a  white-fleshed  bough, 

Strewing  the  purple  spikes  on  a  cobwebbed  lawn, 

Dancing,  dancing, 

Drunk  with  excess,  the  long  red  sun-rays  glancing 

On  flourishing  arms,  skipping  with  hideous  knees, 

Cavorting  his  grotesque  ecstasies  .  .  . 

I  do  not  see  him,  but  I  see  the  lilacs  fall, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

I  hear  the  scrape  of  his  hands  against  the  wall, 
The  leaves  are  tossed  and  tremble  where  he  plunges 

among  them, 

And  silence  falls,  and  I  hear  the  sound  of  his  breath, 
Sharp  and  whistling,  the  rhythm  of  death. 

It  is  evening:  the  lights  on  a  long  street  balance  and 


In  the  purple  ether  they  swing  and  silently  sing, 
The  street  is  a  gossamer  swung  in  space 
And  death  himself  in  the  wind  comes  dancing  along  it, 
And  the  lights,  like  raindrops,   fall  and  tremble  and 

swing  .  .  . 

Hurry,  spider,  and  spread  your  glistening  web, 
For  death  approaches! 

Hurry,  rose,  and  open  your  heart  to  the  bee, 
For  death  approaches! 
Maiden,  let  down  your  hair  for  the  hands  of  your 


Comb  it  with  moonlight  and  wreathe  it  with  leaves, 
For  death  approaches!  .  .  . 

Death,  colossal  in  stars,  minute  in  the  sand-grain, 
Death  himself  in  the  rain,  death  himself, 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

Drawing    the    rain    about    him    like    a    garment    of 

jewels  .  .  . 

I  hear  the  sound  of  his  feet 
On  the  stairs  of  the  wind,  in  the  sun, 
In  the  forests  of  the  sea  .  .  . 
Listen!    the  immortal  footsteps  beat  and  beat! 


The  Charnel  Rose 


It  is  noontime,  Senlin  says.     The  sky  is  brilliant 

Above  a  green  and  dreaming  hill. 

I  lay  my  trowel  down.    The  pool  is  cloudless, 

The  grass,  the  wall,  the  peach-tree,  all  are  still  .  .  . 

It  appears  to  me  that  I  am  one  with  these : 

A  hill,  upon  whose  back  are  a  wall  and  trees. 

It  is  noontime:   all  seems  still 
Upon  this  green  and  flowering  hill. 

Yet  suddenly,  out  of  nowhere  in  the  sky, 

A  cloud  comes  whirling,  and  flings 

A  lazily  coiling  vortex  of  shade  on  the  hill  .  .  . 

It  crosses  the  hill,  and  a  bird  in  the  peach-tree  sings. 

Amazing!  ...   Is  there  a  change?  .  .  . 

The  hill  seems  somehow  strange. 

It  is  noontime.     And  in  the  tree 
The  leaves  are  delicately  disturbed 
Where  the  bird  descends  invisibly. 
It  is  noontime.     And  in  the  pool 
The  sky  is  blue  and  cool. 


Senlin:  A  Biography 

Yet  suddenly,  out  of  nowhere  in  the  wind, 

Something  ferociously  flings  itself  at  the  hill, 

Tears  with  claws  at  the  earth,  whirrs  amid  shadows, 

Roars  from  the  grass,  rages  among  the  trees, 

Lunges  and  hisses  and  softly  recoils, 

Crashing  against  the  green  like  inaudible  seas !  .  .  . 

The  peach-tree  braces  itself,  the  pool  is  frightened, 

The  grass  blades  quiver,  the  bird  is  still, 

The  wall  seems  silently  struggling  against  the  sunlight, 

Some  apprehension  stiffens  the  hill  .  .  . 

And  the  trees  turn  rigidly,  to  face 

Something  that  circles  with  slow  pace : 

And  the  blue  pool  seems  to  shrink 

From  something  that  slides  above  its  brink  .  .  . 

What  struggle  is  this,  ferocious  and  slow  and  still? 

What  is  it  that  wars  in  the  sunlight  on  this  hill?  .  .  . 

What  is  it  that  creeps  to  dart 

Like  a  knife-blade  at  my  heart?  .  .  . 

It  is  noontime,  Senlin  says,  and  all  is  tranquil  .  .  . 
The  brilliant  sky  burns  over  a  green-bright  earth. 
The  peach-tree  dreams  in  the  sun,  the  wall  is  con 


The  Charnel  Rose 

And  a  bird  in  the  peach-leaves,  moving  from  sun  to 


Phrases  again  his  unremembering  mirth, 
His  lazily  beautiful,  foolish,  mechanical  mirth. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


The  pale  blue  gloom  of  evening  comes 
Among  the  quiet  of  forests  and  walls 
With  a  mournful  and  rhythmic  sound  of  drums. 
My  heart  is  disturbed  with  a  sound  of  myriad  throb 

Persuasive  and  sinister,  near  and  far: 
In  the  blue  evening  of  my  heart 
I  hear  the  thrum  of  the  evening  star. 

My  work  is  uncompleted ;  and  yet  I  hurry, — 

Hearing  the  whispered  pulsing  of  those  drums, — 

To  enter  the  luminous  walls  and  woods  of  night  .  .  . 

It  is  the  eternal  mistress  of  the  world 

Who  shakes  these  drums  for  my  delight  .  .  . 

Listen !  the  drums  of  the  leaves,  the  drums  of  the  dust, 

The  delicious  quivering  of  this  air! 

The  eternal  mistress  is  laughing  among  the  stars, 

Yawning  in  silver  amid  her  hair  .  .  . 

I  will  leave  my  work  unfinished,  and  I  will  go 

With  ringing  and  certain  step  through  the  laughter 

of  chaos 

To  the  one  small  room  in  the  void  I  know  .  .  . 
Yesterday  it  was  there, — 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Will  I  find  it  to-night  once  more  when  I  climb  the 

stair?  .  .  . 

Will  she  remember  me — will  she  greet  me, 
And  touch  my  heart  with  a  cool  white  hand? 
Will  music  crash  like  a  wave  about  me 
As  I  see  her  rise  and  stand, 
Solitary  and  fragrant  against  the  night, 
A  single  lilac  tree  in  a  whirl  of  light?  .  .  . 

The  drums  of  the  street  run  low  and  far: 

In  the  blue  evening  of  my  heart 

I  hear  the  thrum  of  the  evening  star  .  .  . 

And  a  thousand  images  recur 

Weaving  deliciously  in  my  brain 

A  tyrannous  melody  of  her: 

Hands  in  the  sunlight,  threads  of  the  rain 

Against  her  glistening  lamplit  face, 

Snow  on  a  cold  black  window-pane, 

And  tears  in  a  leafy  place  .  .  . 

Stars  in  a  dusk  of  hair  entangled; 

And  flesh  more  delicate  than  fruit ; 

And  a  voice  that  searches  among  my  veins 

For  a  chord  to  throb  and  mute  . 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

My  life  is  uncompleted:   and  so  I  hurry, 

Among  the  tinkling  forests  and  walls  of  evening 

To  a  certain  fragrant  room. 

Who  is  it  that  dances  there,  to  a  beating  of  drums, 

While  stars  on  a  grey  sea  bud  and  bloom? 

Who  is  it  that  lifts  her  hands  in  the  yellow  light 

Turning  a  dazzle  of  shoulders  against  the  night? 

She  stands  at  the  top  of  the  stair, 

With  the  lamplight  on  her  hair  .  .  . 

I  will  walk  through  the  snarling  of  streams  of  space, 

And  climb  the  long  steps  carved  from  wind 

And  rise  once  more  towards  her  face  .  .  . 

Listen !  the  drums  of  the  drowsy  trees, 

And  the  mournful  drums  of  seas ! 

And  out  of  the  evening  like  a  rose 
The  evenings  of  my  past  unfold; 
Rain  and  lilacs,  silver  and  white, 
Evenings  of  stars,  purple  and  gold  .  .  . 
Music  spins  from  the  heart  of  silence 
And  twirls  me  softly  upon  the  air  ... 
It  comes  from  a  far-off  luminous  room 
And  dark  star-tangled  hair. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

It  takes  my  hand  and  whispers  to  me 

The  melodious  mystery  of  flesh, 

It  draws  the  web  of  the  moonlight  down 

And  spins  for  my  heart  a  mesh. 

There  are  hands,  it  says,  as  cool  as  snow, 

The  hands  of  the  Venus  of  the  sea, 

There  are  waves  of  sound  in  a  mermaid-cave, 

Come — then — come  with  me ! 

Softness  and  whiteness,  cool  and  sweet, 

The  flesh  of  the  sea- rose,  new  and  cool, 

The  wavering  image  of  her  who  comes 

At  dusk  by  a  blue  sea-pool  .  .  . 

Whispers  upon  the  starlit  air, 

Whispers  of  foam- white  arm  and  thigh, 

And  a  shower  of  delicate  stars  blown  down 

From  the  silent  sky !  .  .  . 

Music  spins  from  a  far-off  room  .  .  . 

Do  you  remember, — it  seems  to  say, — 

The  mouth  that  smiled,  beneath  your  mouth, 

And  kissed  you  .  .  .  yesterday? 

It  is  your  own  flesh  waits  for  you, 

Come!   you  are  incomplete!  .  .  . 

The  drums  of  the  universe  once  more 

Morosely  beat  and  beat. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

The  drum  of  the  white  star  thrills  the  sky, 
The  drum  of  the  moon  beats  slow  and  dull 
It  is  death  himself  who  wearily  knocks 
A  tom-tom  on  a  silvered  skull. 
It  is  the  harlot  of  the  world 
Who  clashes  the  leaves  like  ghostly  drums 
And  disturbs  the  solitude  of  my  heart 
As  evening  comes ! 

I  leave  my  work  once  more,  and  walk 
Along  a  street  that  sways  in  the  wind  .  .  . 
Among  great  trees  that  grope  in  space 
I  search  for  a  woman's  face. 

Once  more  in  the  evening  I  let  fall 
The  thoughts  I  builded  into  a  wall. 
I  leave  these  stones,  and  walk  once  more 
Along  infinity's  shore. 

I  climb  the  golden-laddered  stair; 
Among  the  stars  in  the  blue  I  climb : 
I  ascend  the  golden-laddered  hair 
Of  the  harlot-queen  of  time: 


The  Charnel  Rose 

She  laughs  from  a  window  in  the  sky, 
Her  white  arms  downward  reach  to  me ! 
We  are  the  universe  that  spins 
In  a  dim  ethereal  sea. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


It  is  evening,  Senlin  says,  and  in  the  evening 

The  throbbing  of  drums  has  languidly  died  away. 

The  forests  and  seas  are  still.     We  breathe  in  silence 

And  strive  to  say  the  things  flesh  cannot  say. 

The  soulless  wind  falls  slowly  about  the  earth 

And  finds  no  rest. 

The  lover  stares  at  the  stars, — the  wakeful  lover 

Who  finds  no  peace  on  his  lover's  breast. 

The  snare  of  flesh  that  bound  us  in  is  broken; 

Softly,  in  sorrow,  we  draw  apart,  and  see, 

Far  off,  the  beauty  we  thought  our  flesh  had  cap 
tured, — 

The  star  flesh  longed  to  be  but  could  not  be  ... 

Clouds  blow  over  us.     Rain  serenely  falls. 

Rain  in  the  shaken  lamplight,  rain  on  the  roof. 

Once  more,  about  us,  darken  our  finite  walls  .  .  . 

Come  back!  .  .  .  We  will  laugh  once  more  at  the 
words  we  said  .  .  . 

We  say  them  slowly  again,  but  the  words  are  dead  .  .  . 

Come  back,  beloved!  .  .  .  The  blue  void  whirls 

We  cry  to  each  other:   alone,  unknown,  unseen. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

We  are  the  grains  of  sand  that  run  and  rustle 

In  the  wind  among  old  dunes. 

We  are  the  grains  of  sand  who  thought  ourselves 

Immortal  moons. 

You  touch  my  hand,  time  bears  you  softly  away, — 

An  alien  star  for  whom  I  have  no  word  .  .  . 

What   are   the   strange   and   meaningless   things   you 

say?  .  .  . 
I  answer  you,  but  am  not  heard. 

It  is  evening,  Senlin  says;  and  the  darkness  crumbles; 

And  a  dream  in  ruins  falls. 

Once  more  we  turn  in  a  silent  pain,  bewildered, 

Among  our  finite  walls: 

The  walls  we  built  ourselves  with  patient  hands 

For  a  god  who  sealed  a  question  in  our  flesh : 

Obeying  a  god's  commands. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


It  is  moonlight.     Alone  in  the  silence 

I  ascend  my  stairs  once  more, 

While  waves,  remote  in  a  pale  blue  starlight, 

Crash  on  a  white  sand  shore. 

It  is  moonlight.     The  garden  is  silent. 

I  stand  in  my  room  alone. 

Across  my  wall,  from  the  far-off  moon, 

A  rain  of  fire  is  thrown  .  .  . 

There  are  houses  hanging  above  the  stars, 
And  stars  hung  under  a  sea : 
And  a  wind  from  the  long  blue  vault  of  time 
Waves  my  curtains  for  me  ... 

I  wait  in  the  dark  once  more, 
Swung  between  space  and  space: 
Before  my  mirror  I  lift  my  hands 
And  face  my  remembered  face. 
Is  it  I  who  stand  in  a  question  here, 
Asking  to  know  my  name?  .  .  . 
It  is  I,  yet  I  know  not  whither  I  go, 
Nor  why,  nor  whence  I  came. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

It  is  I,  who  awoke  at  dawn 

And  arose  and  descended  the  stair, 

Conceiving  a  god  in  the  eye  of  the  sun, — 

In  a  woman's  hands  and  hair. 

It  is  I  whose  flesh  is  grey  with  the  stones 

I  builded  into  a  wall: 

With  a  mournful  melody  in  my  brain 

Of  a  tune  I  cannot  recall  .  .  . 

There  are  roses  to  kiss :   and  mouths  to  kiss ; 
And  the  sharp-pained  shadow  of  death. 
I  remember  a  rain-drop  on  my  cheek, — 
A  wind  like  a  fragrant  breath  .  .  . 
And  the  star  I  laugh  on  tilts  through  heaven; 
And  the  heavens  are  dark  and  steep  .  .  . 
I  will  forget  these  things  once  more 
In  the  silence  of  sleep. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 

///.  His  Cloudy  Destiny 


Senlin  sat  before  us  and  we  heard  him. 
He  smoked  his  pipe  before  us  and  we  saw  him. 
Was  he  small,  with  reddish  hair, 
Did  he  light  his  pipe  with  a  meditative  stare 
And  a  twinkling  flame  reflected  in  blue  eyes? 
Was  he  sad  and  happy  and  foolish  and  wise? 
'I  am  alone :'  said  Senlin,  'in  a  forest  of  leaves 
The  single  leaf  that  creeps  and  greens  and  falls  .  .  . 
The  single  blade  of  grass  in  a  desert  of  grasses 
That  none  foresaw  and  none  recalls. 
The  single  shell  that  a  green  wave  flings  and  shatters 
In  tiny  specks  of  whiteness  on  the  sands  .  .  . 
How  shall  you  understand  me  with  your  hearts, 
Who  cannot  find  me  with  your  hands  ?  .  .  . ' 

The  city  dissolves  about  us,  and  its  walls 

Are  the  sands  beside  a  sea. 

We  plunge  in  a  chaos  of  dunes,  white  waves  before  us 

Crash  on  the  weeds  tumultuously. 

Gulls  wheel  over  the  foam,  the  clouds  blow  swiftly, 

The  sun  is  swallowed  .  .  .  Has  Senlin  become  a  shore  ? 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Is  Senlin  a  grain  of  sand  beneath  our  footsteps, 
A  speck  of  shell  upon  which  waves  will  roar?  .  .  . 
Senlin !  we  cry  .  .  .    Senlin !  again  ...   no  answer, 
Only  the  crash  of  sea  on  a  shell-white  floor  .  .  . 

Yet,  we  would  say,  this  is  no  shore  at  all, 

But  a  small  bright  room  with  lamplight  on  the  wall ; 

And  the  familiar  chair 

Where  Senlin  sat,  with  the  lamplight  on  his  hair. 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


Senlin,  alone  before  us,  played  a  music  .  .  . 
Was  it  himself  he  played?  .  .  .  We  sat  and  listened, 
Perplexed  and  pleased  and  tired. 
'Listen !'  he  said,  'and  you  shall  learn  a  secret — 
Though  it  is  not  the  music  you  desired. 
I  have  not  found  a  music  that  will  praise  you !  .  .  . 
Out  of  the  heart  of  silence  comes  this  music, 
Quietly  sings  and  quietly  dies. 
Look!   there  is  one  white  star  above' black  houses! 
And  a  tiny  man  who  climbs  towards  far  skies ! 
Where  does  he  walk  to?    What  does  he  leave  behind 


What  was  his  foolish  name? 
What  did  he  stop  to  say,  before  he  left  you 
As  darkly  as  he  came?  .  .  . 
"Death?"    did    it    sound    like,    "love,    and    god,    and 


Sunlight,  and  work,  and  pain  .  .  .  ?" 
No — it  appears  to  me  that  these  were  symbols 
Of  things  he  found  no  words  to  explain. 
He  spoke,  but  found  you  could  not  understand  him 
You  were  alone,  and  he  was  alone. 
His  words  were  whirled  and  lost  in  a  raging  chaos, 



1 — ^  The  Charnel  Rose 

On  a  laughter  of  wind  his  tunes  were  blown  .  .  . 
He  sought  to  touch  you,  and  found  he  could  not  reach 


Flesh  was  between;  and  the  walls  of  time  and  space. 
He  sought  to  understand  you,  and  could  not  hear  you. 
He  sought  to  know  you,  but  only  saw  your  face  .  .  . 
.  And  so  this  music,  which  I  play  before  you, 
Does  it  mean  only  what  it  seems  to  mean? 
Or  is  it  a  dance  of  foolish  waves  in  sunlight 
Above  a  desperate  depth  of  things  unseen?  .  .  . 
Listen!    Do  you  not  hear  the  singing  of  mermaids 
Out  of  the  darkness  of  this  sea?  .  .  . 
But  no :  you  cannot  hear  them ;  for  if  you  heard  them 
You  would  have  heard  and  captured  me. 
Yet  I  am  here,  talking  of  hands  and  roses, 
Laughter  and  love  and  work  and  god; 
As  I  shall  talk  of  these  same  things  hereafter 
In  wind  and  wave  and  grey-webbed  sod. 
Walk  on  a  hill  and  call  me:  "Senlin!  ,  .  .  Senlin! 
Will  I  not  answer  you  as  clearly  as  now? 
Listen  to  rain,  and  you  will  hear  me  speaking. 
Look  for  my  heart  in  the  breaking  of  a  bough  .  .  .' 


Senlin:    A  Biography 


Senlin  stood  before  us  in  the  sunlight, 
And  laughed,  and  walked  away. 
Did  no  one  see  him  leaving  the  doors  of  the  city, 
Looking  behind  him  as  if  he  wished  to  stay?  .  .  . 
Has  no  one,  in  the  forests  of  the  evening, 
Heard  the  sad  horn  of  Senlin  slowly  blown? 
For  somewhere  in  the  worlds-in-worlds  around  us 
He  wanders  still,  unfriended  and  alone. 
Is  he  the  star  on  which  we  walk  at  daybreak, 
The  light  that  blinds  our  eyes? 
'Senlin  !'  we  cry.    'Senlin  !'  again  ...   no  answer  . 
Only  the  soulless  brilliance  of  blue  skies  .  .  . 

Yet  we  would  say,  this  was  no  man  at  all, 
But  a  dream  we  dreamed  and  vividly  recall; 
And  we  are  mad  to  walk  in  wind  and  rain 
Hoping  to  find,  somewhere,  that  dream  again. 





The  moon  distills  a  soft  blue  light, 

The  moon  distills  a  silence. 

Black  clouds  huddle  across  the  stars; 

I  walk  in  deserted  gardens 

Breaking  the  dry  leaves  under  my  feet  . 

Leaves  have  littered  the  marble  seat 

Where  the  lovers  sat  in  silence  .  .  . 

Leaves  have  littered  the  empty  seat  .  .  . 

Down  there  the  black  pool,  quiveringly, 
Ripples  the  floating  moon  .  .  . 
Down  there  the  tall  trees,  restlessly, 
Shake  beneath  the  moon  .  .  . 
Beloved,  I  walk  alone  .  .  . 
What  ghost  is  this  that  walks  with  me, 
Always  in  darkness  walks  with  me? 


The  Charnel  Rose 


Green  light,  from  the  moon, 
Pours  over  the  dark  blue  trees, 
Green  light  from  the  autumn  moon 
Pours  on  the  grass  .  .  . 
Green  light  falls  on  the  goblin  fountain 
Where  hesitant  lovers  meet  and  pass. 

They  laugh  in  the  moonlight,  touching  hands, 

They  move  like  leaves  on  the  wind  .  .  . 

I  remember  an  autumn  night  like  this, 

And  not  so  long  ago, 

When  other  lovers  were  blown  like  leaves, 

Before  the  coming  of  snow. 




Wind  in  the  sunlit  trees,  and  the  red  leaves  fall : 
Shadows  of  leaves  on  the  sunlit  wall. 
Wind  in  the  turning  tops  of  the  trees  .  .  . 
I  am  reminded,  seeing  these, 
Of  an  afternoon,  and  you 
Making  the  trees  more  scarlet,  the  sky  more  blue. 



The  Charnel  Rose 


Here  alone,  unknown,  in  the  darkness, 
I  watch  you  whirling  above  your  shadow, 
Soft  in  saffron,  with  dark  hair  jewelled, 
And  arms  uplifted, 

Dancing  alone  in  the  hissing  spotlight  .  .  . 
You  rise  and  fall  on  the  wave  of  the  music 
Narrowing  eyes  at  the  light  that  dazzles, 
Languidly  smiling  .  .  . 

Beautiful,  now,  are  your  cold  white  shoulders 
If  I  were  death,  my  hands  might  touch  them; 
If  I  were  death  my  mouth  might  kiss  you, 
Passionate  dancer. 





From  the  cold  fountain's  sunlit  lip 

A  shining  film  of  water  spreads, 

It  is  shot  with  sun,  it  is  blue  and  gold  .  .  . 

It  scatters  jewels  to  wet  the  grass, 

And  children  watch  it  with  lifted  heads, 

And  the  young  girls  pause  there  as  they  pass  . 

A  sparrow  sits  at  the  edge,  and  flings 

The  vanishing  jewels  with  his  wings. 

The  Charnel  Rose 


You  are  as  beautiful  as  white  clouds 
Flowing  among  bright  stars  at  night: 
You  are  as  beautiful  as  pale  clouds 
Which  the  moon  sets  alight. 

You  are  as  lovely  as  golden  stars 
Which  white  clouds  try  to  brush  away: 
You  are  as  bright  as  golden  stars 
When  they  come  out  to  play. 

You  are  as  glittering  as  those  stairs 
Of  stone  down  which  the  blue  brooks  run 
You  are  as  shining  as  sea-waves 
All  hastening  to  the  sun. 




Red  leaf,  red  leaf,  falling  to  float 
On  the  blue  water  among  the  cold  clouds  .  .  . 
If  I  were  a  child  I  would  call  you  a  boat 
And  sail  to  the  moon  .  .  . 

I  would  sail  to  the  moon  with  the  dark  king's  daughter, 
The  beautiful  dreamer  with  green-slippered  feet; 
Her  long  golden  hair  would  shine  on  the  water; 
Her  eyes  would  be  blue; 

And  there  she  would  sing,  while  the  sail  overhead 
Swelled  with  the  wind,  and  the  green  waves  flashed, — 
Her  red  lips  would  sing,  till  the  isle  of  the  dead 
Rose  darkly  before  us. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


In  the   mazes  of   loitering  people,  the  watchful  and 


The  shadows  of  tree-trunks  and  shadows  of  leaves, 
In  the  drowse  of  the  sunlight,  among  the  low  voices, 
I  suddenly  face  you, 

Your  dark  eyes  return  for  a  space  from  her  who  is 

with  you, 

They  shine  into  mine  with  a  sunlit  desire, 
They  say  an  'I  love  you,  what  star  do  you  live  on?' 
They  smile  and  then  darken, 

And  silent  I  answer  'You  too — I  have  known  you, — 

I  love  you!' — 

And  the  shadows  of  tree-trunks  and  shadows  of  leaves 
Interlace  with  low  voices  and  footsteps  and  sunlight 
To  divide  us  forever. 




Moonlight,  and  shadows  of  leaves 

On  the  white  wall  above  me — 

The  shadows  gallop  and  swirl  without  sound. 

Blue  moonlight,  brief  shadows  of  leaves, 

And  once  more  I  see  you : 

Saying  aloud,  like  a  dreamer,  'You  love  me, 

You  love  me !' 

Moonlight  .  .  .   down  there  in  the  garden, 

I  know  without  seeing, 

The  somnolent  fountain  is  filled  with  blue  fire. 

I  close  my  eyes,  I  pursue  you 

Through  dream's   fainter  moonlight, 

Ghostlike,  with  shadows  of  dead  leaves,  silently 



The  Charnel  Rose 


Queen  Cleopatra,  now  grown  old, 
Watched  the  green  grass  turning  brown  .  .  . 
The  river  is  shrunk  to  half  its  size: 
Now  I  will  lay  me  down. 

Queen  Cleopatra  called  her  slaves 

And  peered  in  the  mirror  with  age-pearled  eyes 

My  lips  are  not  so  red  as  they  were : 

Not  so  the  old  leaf  dies ! 

Light  the  torches,  and  fill  the  courts 
With  scarlet  music,  and  bring  to  me 
Vermilion  to  smear  upon  my  lips, 
And  opals,  that  I  may  be 

Once  more  what  Cleopatra  was 
Before  the  woman  became  the  queen  .  .  . 
She  laughed,  and  backward  tossed  her  head; 
And  horn,  and  tambourine, 

Snarled  at  the  hot  and  red-starred  night, 
While  gasping  dancers,  one  by  one, 
Whirled  on  the  stone  with  yellow  feet  .  .  . 
And  when  that  dance  was  done 



She  poured  cold  poison  into  a  cup 

And  watched  the  thick  foam  wink  and  seethe : 

One  black  bubble  upon  her  tongue 

And  she  would  cease  to  breathe. 

She  held  the  poison  before  her  mouth  .  .  . 
And  saw  the  dark  tomb  hewed  in  stone 
Where  a  thousand  nights  would  drift  as  one, 
And  she  would  sleep  alone; 

And  lightly  touched  the  goblet's  rim, 

And  thought,  with  a  pleased  and  narrowed  eye, 

Of  this  and  that,  and  Antony, 

And  the  laugh  that  will  not  die. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


This  night  I  dreamed  that  you  shone  before  me 
Colder  and  paler  than  rose-flushed  marble, 
With  dark  hair  fallen  across  your  shoulders 
And  face  half  hidden. 

And  in  that  darkness  I  went  before  you 
And  turned  my  eyes  from  your  beauty  quickly: 
I  turned  away  from  your  too  great  beauty, 
I  fled  before  you. 

Now  I  remember  how  in  that  shadow 
You  started  to  smile,  your  dark  eyes  kindled, 
Your  face  grew  light  with  a  word  unspoken ; 
Then,  had  I  waited, 

I  should  have  learned  .  .  .   what  moonlight  secret? 
What  whisper  of  temples  and  hills  of  cypress? 
What  echo  of  singing  and  far-off  cymbals, 
Gleam  of  the  goddess?  .  .  . 

But  I,  grown  base  in  fear  of  denial, 
Though  all  my  blood  stood  still  for  your  beauty, 
I  turned  in  silence  away  from  your  kindness; 
And  now  I  have  lost  you. 




Wind,  wind,  wind  in  the  old  trees, 
Whispering  prophecies  all  night  long  .  .  . 
What  do  the  grey  leaves  sing  to  the  wind, 
What  do  they  say  in  their  whispered  song? 

We  were  all  young  once,  and  green  as  the  sea, 
We  all  loved  beauty,  the  maiden  of  white. 
But  now  we  are  old.    O  wind,  have  mercy 
And  let  us  remember  our  youth  this  night ! 

The  wind  is  persuasive,  it  turns  through  the  trees 
And  sighs  of  a  miracle  under  its  breath  .  .  . 
Beauty  the  dream  will  die  with  the  dreamer, 
None  shall  have  mercy,  but  all  shall  have  death. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


Blue  waves  are  driven  by  wind, 

The  leaves  are  driven, 

And  the  clouds  go  hurrying  dizzily  over  the  sky. 

Among  the  blown  leaves  he  stands,  and  lifts  his  flute, 

And  trembles,  and  blows  strange  melody  at  the  sky. 

The  music  he  plays  is  old  blown  leaves, 

The  notes  are  unevenly  blown. 

Sometimes  it  sings,  sometimes  it  grieves, 

Sometimes  a  querulous  monotone  .  .  . 

What  does  he  see  above  red  rooftops, 

What  does  he  see  when  he  lifts  his  eyes? 

Pale  leaves  loosened  from  bare  black  elm-boughs, 

Pale  leaves  hurled  from  the  hurrying  skies, 

Death  .  .  .   death  .  .  .   death  .  .  .   death  .  .  . 

Beauty  singing  for  beauty  that  dies. 

Love  was  betrayed  in  the  whispering  garden : 

Clear  as  white  flame  the  maiden  fled. 

A  shaft  of  moonlight  dazzled  the  somnolent  garden ; 

And  among  the  white  leaves  love  lay  dead  .  .  . 

Pale  waves  are  driven  to  foam, 

And  the  leaves  are  driven; 

Among  the  blown  leaves  he  wavers  and  lifts  his  flute. 

Dust  will  cover  the  golden  leaves  of  the  maple, 

The  querulous  praise  will  soon  be  mute. 




Beautiful  body  made  of  ivory, 

Beautiful  body  made  of  ivory  and  roses, 

Beautiful  body  made  of  gold  and  beaten  silver, 
Garlanded  with  ivy, 

Colder  than  starlight  you  stand  and  await  me, 
Colder  than  starlight  on  the  snow  of  mountains; 
Whiter  than  starlight  on  the  snow  of  oceans 
You  wait  and  are  silent. 

Beautiful  dreamer  of  dreams, 
Beautiful  dreamer  of  cold-hearted  music, 
Roseate  dreamer  of  involuted  music, 
Chords  of  tense  silver, 

Clearly  you  sound  to  me  in  the  night-time  ; 
Solemnly,  like  a  rich  wind  moving, 
You  move  in  my  heart's  enchanted  forests, 
You  sigh  and  are  restless. 

Beautiful  dream  of  the  dreamer, 
Rare  dream  profoundly  and  curiously  unfolding, 
Unfolding  like  a  lotus  in  waves  of  cool  fragrance, 
Unfolding  in  slow  measure, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

You  are  like  moonlight  prodigally  unfolding, 
You  are  like  the  universe  of  stars  unfolding, 
Unfolding  in  slow  chords  of  sound  and  silence, 
Grave  and  immortal. 

Beautiful  body  made  of  roses, 
Beautiful  body  made  of  roses  and  sea-waves, 
Beautiful  body  with  eyes  of  cold  starlight, 
Slow-moving  dreamer, 

Beautiful  woman  made  of  love, 
White  body  made  of  dreamdust  and  Stardust, 
Silently  and  sedately  you  enter  me, — 
Quietly  you  possess  me. 




The  sea  falls  all  night  on  the  yellow  sand, 
The  green  waves  foam  and  thrust  and  slide, 
The  long  green  waves  fall  on  the  yellow  sand, 
All  night  long  they  fall, 

The  green  waves  fall  and  drag  at  the  yellow  pebbles, 
The  shingle  roars  in  the  sliding  surf, 
Wind  screams  over  the  long  volutes  of  foam, 
All  night  long  they  whirl, 

They  charge  the  sand  and  seethe  and  slide  in  laughter, 
Swiftly  withdraw  and  murmur  and  rise, 
They  charge  the  sand  with  rippling  glittering  edges, 
All  night  long  they  charge, 

Immortally  flinging  their  long  green  bodies  to  death, 
Immortally  baffled,  withdrawing,  crying, 
Rallying,  hurrying,  clamoring,  sobbing  for  rest, 
Immortally  slaying,  immortally  dying. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


Against  an  orange  twilight  sky 
The  street  lamp  gleams  like  clearer  fire, 
The  cold  wind  spills  the  huddling  leaves, 
And  cold  bells,  in  the  sombre  spire, 
Shake  the  wind  with  a  savage  sound  .  .  . 
The  street  lamp  gleams  like  a  golden  eye. 

This  dust  will  be  possessed  of  tongues, 
These  leaves  will  find  a  million  voices, 
These  stones  will  murmur  and  seize  our  feet, 
These  boughs  of  trees  will  writhe  and  beat  . 
Against  an  orange  twilight  sky 
The  street  lamp  burns  like  a  golden  eye. 

The  earth's  edge,  growing  black,  swings  up 

With  sinister  and  enormous  arc, 

The  yellow  star  that  came  to  swim 

Silently  in  the  golden  sky 

Is  caught  and  crushed  by  that  black  rim  .  .  . 

The  street  lamp  gleams  like  an  evil  eye. 




Tear  the  pink  rose  petal  by  petal 
And  let  the  petals  float  and  fall, 
Ravel  the  golden  stamens  out, 
And  last  of  all, 

Shredding  its  sweetness  on  the  wind, 
Turn  and  laugh  and  go  away, 
Forgetting  how  soft  a  thing  it  was, 
How  brief  a  thing  to  stay. 

But  when  white  winds  have  swept  your  heart 
And  white  tides  driven  along  your  veins, 
And  the  continents  are  yellow  with  leaves 
And  the  mountains  black  with  rains, 

Secretly  in  your  depths  of  sleep 
Among  the  unresting  rocks  and  roots 
A  dream,  a  gleam,  a  warmth  will  start, 
A  whorl  of  winds  and  lutes, 

And  thrusting  among  the  withered  leaves 
Will  burn  the  purple-pointed  flame, 
And  the  rose  you  slew  will  light  again, 
Will  light  again  the  same. 

The  Charnel  Rose 


The  sun  distills  a  golden  light, 
The  sun  distills  a  silence. 
White  clouds  dazzle  across  the  sky: 
I  walk  in  the  blowing  garden 
Breaking  the  gay  leaves  under  my  feet 
Leaves  have  littered  the  marble  seat 
Where  the  lovers  sat  in  silence: 
Leaves  have  littered  the  empty  seat. 

Down  there  the  blue  pool,  quiveringly, 

Ripples  the  fire  of  the  sun; 

Down  there  the  tall  tree,  restlessly, 

Shivers  beneath  the  sun. 

Beloved,  I  walk  alone  .  .  . 

What  dream  is  this  that  sings  with  me, 

Always  in  sunlight  sings  with  me? 

Out  there  the  blue  sea,  glimmeringly, 
Ripples  among  the  dunes. 
Blue  waves  streaked  and  chained  with  fire 
Rustle  among  the  dunes. 



The  sea-gull  spreads  his  wings 

Dizzily  over  the  foam  to  skim, 

And  an  azure  shadow  speeds  with  him. 

The  sea-gull  folds  his  wings 

To  fall  from  depth  to  depth  of  air 

And  finds  sky  everywhere. 



TO   G.    B.    W. 

AND  R.    N.   L. 



THE  CHARNEL  ROSE  needs,  perhaps,  some  explana 
tion.  Like  programme  music,  it  is  helped  by  a 
programme:  though  concrete  in  its  imagery,  it  avoids 
sharp  statements  of  ideas,  implying  the  theme, 
rather  than  stating  it.  This  theme  might  be  called 
nympholepsy — nympholepsy  in  a  broad  sense  as  that 
impulse  which  sends  us  from  one  dream,  or  ideal,  to 
another,  always  disillusioned,  always  creating  for 
adoration  some  new  and  subtler  fiction. 

To  exhaust  such  a  theme  would  of  course  be 
impossible.  One  can  only  single  out  certain  aspects 
of  it,  indicate  with  a  gesture.  In  the  present  instance 
it  has  been  my  intention  merely  to  use  this  idea  as  a 
theme  upon  which  one  might  build  wilfully  a  kind 
of  absolute  music.  I  have  restricted  myself  to  what 
was  relatively  a  small  portion  of  the  idea — that 
portion  which  deals  with  the  main  phases  of  love, 
only  departing  from  this  theme,  or  group  of  themes, 
at  the  very  end,  when  a  transition  is  made  into 


The  Charnel  Rose 

mysticism.  Thus,  beginning  with  the  lowest  order 
of  love,  the  merely  carnal,  the  theme  leads  irregu 
larly,  with  returns  and  anticipations  as  in  music, 
through  various  phases  of  romantic  or  idealistic  love, 
to  several  variants  of  sexual  mysticism;  finally 
ending,  as  I  have  said,  in  a  mysticism  apparently 

It  scarcely  needs  to  be  said  that  the  protagonist  of 
the  poem  is  not  a  specific  man,  but  man  in  general. 
Man  is  seen  seeking  in  many  ways  to  satisfy  his 
instinct  to  love,  worshipping  one  idol  after  another, 
disenchanted  with  each  in  turn;  and  at  last  taking 
pleasure  not  so  much  in  anticipation  as  in  memory. 

The  Charnel  Rose  is  called  a  symphony,  and  in 
some  ways  the  analogy  to  a  musical  symphony  is 
close.  Symbols  recur  throughout  like  themes,  some 
times  unchanged,  sometimes  modified,  but  always 
referring  to  a  definite  idea.  The  attempt  has  been 
made  to  divest  the  successive  emotions  dealt  with  of 
all  save  the  most  typical  or  appropriate  physical 
conditions,  suggesting  physical  and  temporal  environ 
ment  only  so  far  as  the  mood  naturally  predicates  it. 
Emotions,  perceptions, — the  image-stream  in  the  mind 
which  we  call  consciousness, — these  hold  the  stage. 





And  now  great  earth,  having  a  long  while  rested, 
And  having  all  her  winter  in  silence  lain, 
Forgetting  the  summer  of  leaves  that  she  had  divested, 
And  the  roses  she  put  away  from  her  without  pain, — 
Opened  her  sleepy  eyes  to  the  sun  again, 
And  turned  to  the  stealing  light,  and  forgot  past  death, 
Drawing  an  ever-deepening  tranquil  breath ; 

And  listened,  amused,  to  the  voices  in  her  shadow, 
The  million  little  voices  that  babbled  as  one  .  .  . 
Under  this  great  and  ever-enduring  meadow 
She  heard  great  fires,  she  heard  low  waters  run, 
And  a  confused  vast  murmur  about  the  sun 
And  then,  with  her  somnolent  white  lovely  hands 
She  lifted  up  from  the  loam,  and  the  watery  sands, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Irises  gleaming,  and  roses  conceived  anew, 

And  the  pale  little  leaves  that  gave  her  tender  mirth, 

And  fledgling  birds  that  now  for  the  first  time  flew ; 

(O  infinitely  varied  and  pathetic  birth;) 

And  an  innocent  laughter  these  things  were  for  earth, 

These  shining  petals,  these  songs,  these  vain  brave 

Brave  souls  so  sure  of  a  triumph  against  all  things  .  .  . 

And  stretching  her  arms  above  her  towards  the  sun 
She  showed  him  these,  and  laughed ;  and  hardly  heard 
How  terror  whispered  among  them,  when   day  was 


And  how  the  darkness  silenced  the  song  of  a  bird  .  .  . 
For  when  the  sun  withdrew  she  lay,  nor  stirred, 
But  closed  her  eyes,  and  dreamed;  nor  heeded  the 

Of    the    numberless    querulous    voices    of    summer's 


And  darkness  came  back,  and  the  frightened  voices 

were  still; 
And  the  lifted  leaves  were  dropped;  and  the  lifted 

That  shone  for  a  moment  with  passion  to  love  or  kill, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Went  down  with  the  leaves,  relinquished  their  dark 
ened  places, 

Dreaming  of  times  to  come,  and  sunnier  spaces  .  .  . 
And  earth,  oblivious  of  all  these  troubles,  slept; 
And,  waking,  of  all  these  dreams  no  memory  kept. 


She  rose  in  the  moonlight,  and  stood,  confronting  sea, 
With  her  bare  arms  uplifted  in  pale  fire, 
And  lifted  her  voice  in  the  silence  foolishly : 
And  her  face  was  small,  and  her  voice  was  small. 
'O  moon!'  she  said,  'I  think  how  you  must  tire 
Forever  circling  earth,  so  silently ; 
Earth,  who  is  dark  and  makes  you  no  reply.' 
But  the  moon  said  nothing,  no  word  at  all, 
She  only  heard  the  little  waves  rush  and  fall ; 
And  saw  the  moon  go  quietly  down  the  sky. 

She  walked  in  the  moonlight,  blown  by  a  little  wind, 
And  felt  the  white  dress  flurry  about  her  knees. 
And  she  heard  her  woman's  voice  rise  ghostly  and 

Over  the  lulling  seethe  of  spreading  foam, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Saying  'O  numberless  waters,  I  think  it  strange 
How  you  can  always  shadow  her  face,  and  change 
And  yet  never  weary  of  her,  having  no  ease/ 
But  the  sea  said  nothing,  no  word  to  her, 
Unquietly,  as  in  sleep,  she  saw  it  stir; 
And  the  moon  spread  a  net  of  silver  over  the  foam. 

She  lifted  her  hands  and  let  them  fall  again, 
Impatient  of  the  silence.     And  in  despair, 
Hopeless  of  final  answer  against  her  pain, 
She  said,  to  the  stealthy  air, 

'O  air,  you  travel  far,  from  the  stars  are  blown, 
Float  pollen  of  suns.     You  are  an  unseen  sea 
Lifting  and  bearing  the  moons,  eternally. 
O  air,  do  you  not  weary  of  your  task?  .  .  .' 
—  She  stood  in  the  silence,  frightened  and  alone, 
And  heard  her  little  syllables  ask  and  ask  .  .  . 

And  then,  as  she  walked  in  moonlight,  so  alone, 
Lost  and  afloat  and  small  in  a  soulless  sea, 
Hearing  no  voice  make  answer  to  her  own, 
From  that  infinity, — 
Suddenly  she  was  aware  of  a  low  whisper, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

A  dreadful  heartless  sound;   and  she  stood  still, — 
There  in  the  moonlit  grass,  on  a  sandy  hill, — 
And  heard  the  stars,  making  a  ghostly  whisper; 
And  the  soulless  whisper  of  sun  and  moon  and  tree ; 
And  the  sea,  rising  and  falling  with  a  blind  moan. 

And  as  she  faded  into  the  darkness,  into  the  night, 

A  glimmer  of  white, 

With  her  arms  uplifted  and  her  face  bowed  down ; 

Lost,  like  a  breath,  in  the  quietness  of  air, 

Lost,  with  her  pale  arms  and  her  lustrous  hair, 

Sinking,  unseen,  into  the  sleep  of  the  sands, 

The  sea-sands  white  and  brown ; 

Or  among  the  sea-grass  mingling  as  one  more  blade, 

Pushing  before  her  face  her  silent  hands ; 

Or  sliding,  stealthy  as  foam,  in  to  the  sea, 

With  a  slow  seethe  and  melting,  soon  to  fade: 

Too  late  to  find  her,  yet  not  too  late  to  see, 

Came  he,  who  sought  forever  unsatisfied, 

And  saw  her  open  and  enter  and  shut  the  darkness, 

Desired  and  fleet, 

And  after  her  ran,  and  through  the  darkness  cried, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

And  caught  at  the  rays  of  the  moon,  yet  found  but 


Caught  at  the  shine  of  her  feet,  to  fill  his  hands 
With  the  sleepy  blink  of  sands : 
He  that  desired  to  snare  her  fugitive  feet. 

'O  moon !'  he  said :  'was  it  you  I  followed  after, 
You  who  put  silver  madness  into  my  eyes? — * 
But  he  only  heard,  in  the  dark,  a  stifled  laughter, 
And  the  rattle  of  dead  leaves  blowing; 
And  over  his  body  felt  a  hoarse  wind  flowing, 
Cold  with  the  desolate  emptiness  of  the  skies. 

And  a  golden  star  slipped  quietly  down  the  heavens, 
Down  the  smooth  blackness;   and  was  forever  lost, 
Taking  the  years  with  it,  and  aeons  of  years, 
Ravels  of  night,  and  the  myriad  leaves  of  tears. 
And  still  his  hands  were  raised,  and  his  little  words 


On  the  gleaming  waves  of  the  wind,  ripples  of  air. 
And  the  whisper  of  suns  made  mock  of  his  despair. 

'O  wind ! — '  he  said — 'was  it  you  I  followed  after, 
And  your  cool  hand  I  felt  against  my  face? — 


The  Charnel  Rose 

But  he  only  heard,  in  the  dark,  a  stifled  laughter, 
And  shadows  crept  past  him,  each  with  furtive  pace, 
Breathing  cold  night  upon  him.     And  one  by  one 
The  ghosts  of  leaves  blew  past  him,  seeking  the  sun. 
And  a  golden  star  slipped  silently  down  the  heavens, 
Down  the  smooth  wall  of  night,  forever  dead, 
Taking  the  years  with  it ;  and  there  by  the  sea, 
He  sat  in  a  world  of  sand,  and  bowed  his  head, 
And  dreamed  of  the  dream  he  saw  among  the  shadows, 
And  followed  her  through  his  dreams,  despairingly. 

And  the  world  he  dreamed  of  grew  like  fire, 
Fed  on  a  starred  wind  of  desire; 
And  music  broke  and  pierced  it  through, 
With  moons  of  gold  and  rents  of  blue; 
And  forever  upon  it  went  and  came 
Unsteady  motes  as  bright  as  flame, 
Upward  and  downward  softly  blown, 
Or  steadfast  on  a  waft  of  tone. 

And  he  sought  the  holiness  of  her  face 
From  star  to  star  and  space  to  space, 
Following  music  down  the  air 
To  find,  perhaps,  her  streaming  hair; 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Or  plunging  up  through  moonless  skies 
To  find,  through  light  at  length,  her  eyes. 

'O  foam!'  he  said— 'was  it  you  I  followed  after, 
And  your  white  feet  that  tossed  before  my  own? — ' 
But  he  only  heard,  in  the  dark,  a  stifled  laughter, 
And  the  slow  hush  of  sea; 

And  the  flurry  of  leaves  being  rushed  upon  and  blown 
Above  him  there  in  the  moonlit  poplar  tree. 

And  a  silent  star  slipped  golden  down  the  darkness, 

Down  the  great  sleep,  leaving  no  trace  in  sky, 

And  years  went  with  it,  and  worlds.     And  he  dreamed 


Of  a  fleeter  shadow  among  the  shadows  running, 
Foam  into  foam,  without  a  gesture  or  cry, 
Leaving  him  there,  alone,  on  a  sandy  hill. 


Now  one  by  one  the  stars  came  down 
Into  the  silence  of  the  town; 
Each  took  alone  his  destined  place; 
And  walking  swift  he  saw  a  face 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Luminous  for  one  moment  there, 

Under  a  star,  with  shining  hair. 

She  seemed  like  one  who  moved  in  sleep, 

Her  eyes  were  strange,  her  eyes,  were  deep, 

And  when  she  looked  across  the  night, 

Beneath,  among,  those  stars  of-  light, 

Into  his  heart  she  shot  a  pang; 

A  gleaming  mouth  awoke  and  sang; 

Petals  of  roses  showered  him ; 

And  white  through  dark  leaves,  shy  and  dim, 

A  face  rose,  peering,  young  and  sweet, 

Smiled  and  withdrew.     He  heard  her  feet 

Run  down  the  darkness,  saw  them  gleam, 

Low  laughter  trembled  through  the  dream; 

And  thinking  this  one  must  be  she, 

He  followed  after,  tremblingly. 

Among  the  many  lights  he  went, 
Where  faces  massed  like  lilies  blent, 
And  plucked  her  there,  to  make  his  own, 
Above  a  music's  undertone: 
Music  that  cried  intense,  but  after 
Shuddered  down  to  livid  laughter. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

He  breathed  the  perfume  of  her  hair, 
And  pressed  her  arm;  and  suddenly  there, 
Shutting  his  eyes  for  fear  of  seeing, 
Through  growl  of  grotesque  shadows  fleeing, 
Saw  gorgeous  roses  fall  apart, 
Each  to  disclose  a  charnel  heart, 
Each  of  them  with  a  toad  at  heart. 

He  kissed  her  eyes,  and  followed  her, 
Feeling  strange  lights  around  him  blur. 
The  world  grew  small  beneath  his  feet. 
He  made  bright  star  fields  of  the  street, 
And  felt  upon  his  lifted  face 
A  moon-wind  blowing  cool  from  space. 
Her  hand  upon  his  arm  lay  white, 
Ghostly  with  powder  in  that  light; 
Her  dress  was  soft  and  lightly  blew, 
Like  gauze  of  fire  it  pierced  him  through. 
And  when  beneath  a  lamp  she  stood 
And  smiled,  in  subtly  fugitive  mood, 
Withdrawing  swiftly  down  her  eyes 
To  a  remote  dark  void  of  skies, 
He  shrank  upon  a  verge  of  death, 
Thinking  it  sweet  to  draw  his  breath, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

She  was  alive  and  moved  with  him : 
Her  step  kept  pace  with  his.     And  dim, 
Her  face,  half  seen  in  darkness  there, 
Soft  in  a  shadowy  gleam  of  hair,      ^ 
Rose  at  his  shoulder,  as  her  feet 
Moved  through  the  silence  of  the  street  . 
But  in  his  heart  an  echo  came 
Of  thick  dust  quaking  under  flame; 
And  he  saw  red  roses  drop  apart 
Each  to  disclose  a  charnel  heart  . 

Pale  walls  enclosed  them.     One  light  shed 

A  yellow  flicker  across  a  bed. 

Loud  steps  rang  through  the  street,  and  then 

The  hush  of  stars  blew  down  again. 

Green  leaves  pushed  up  through  yielding  air, 

To  drink  the  light.     She  loosed  her  hair, 

Quivering,  reaching  out  white  hands  ... 

Along  the  wide  and  moonlit  sands 

The  moonlit  surf  rushed  softly  in 

With  a  remote  and  whispered  din, 

To  break  and  spread  and  shoot  and  seethe, 

Thickly  above  the  sands  to  breathe, 

The  Charnel  Rose 

The  full  moon  showered  her  silver  down 

Across  the  sea  sands  white  and  brown. 

Silver  leaves  of  poplar  tree 

Shivered  in  shadow  by  the  sea. 

And  then  the  sands  were  hollowed  out, 

Crumbled  and  sank ;  with  sudden  shout 

The  waves  recoiled,  and  clashed,  and  fell, 

The  moon  whirled  round  like  tongue  of  bell, 

The  sea  caved  in,  a  rotten  thing, 

A  nauseous  darkness  crouched  to  spring, 

Blacks  and  yellows  before  him  reeled, 

Bells  in  his  dark  brain  sickly  pealed, 

Between  his  fingers  a  fleet  light  slipped, 

Was  gone,  was  lost  .  .  .   Thick  minutes  dripped 

Rose-wreathed  skeletons  then  advanced 

And  heavily  lifted  feet  and  danced; 

And  he  saw  red  roses  drop  apart, 

Each  to  disclose  a  charnel  heart, 

Each  with  a  venomous  mouth  at  heart. 

He  looked  with  loathing  in  her  eyes : 
Hideous  void  of  twilight  skies; 
Evening  skies  with  bats  therein. 
He  saw  thick  powder  upon  her  skin. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

This  was  not  she !     He  rose,  withdrew. 
Cool  surge  of  night  across  him  blew. 
He  heard  an  echo  of  distant  sea 
Rise  and  fall,  untiringly, 
Far  in  the  night — or  in  his  brain— 
And  sought  her  by  the  sea  again. 


And  a  silent  star  slipped  golden  down  the  darkness, 
Taking  his  life  with  it,  like  a  little  cloud, 
Consumed  in  fire  and  speed,  diffused  in  darkness. 
Tangled  and  pulled  together,  the  vanished  years, 
His  voice,  his  lifted  hands, 

Were  ravelled  and  sped ;  and  by  the  sea  he  bowed 
And  dreamed  of  the  foam  that  went  back  into  the  sea, 
And  the  wandering  leaves  that  went  back  into  the  tree. 


Roses,  he  mused,  were  kin  to  her, 

Sweet  mouths  of  dust.     And  knowing  these 

He  might  more  surely  win  to  her, 

Speak  her  own  native  tongue,  and  please. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

What  subtle  kinship,  then,  was  this, 
That  made  him  tremble  at  a  breath? 
In  leaves,  she  was  near  enough  to  kiss, 
And  yet,  impalpable  as  death. 
When  he  dug  earth,  he  tore  apart 
Soft  roots  of  her.     She  fled  from  him. 
Her  sweetness,  in  a  crocus  heart, 
If  probed  for  ruthlessly,  would  swim 
Lazily  thin  away  on  air, 
Not  to  be  seized  by  hands.     She  fled 
Before  him,  unseen,  even- where, — 
A  golden  bloom  behind  her  shed. 
Music  he  heard  run  under  earth, 
Like  flow  of  fire.     He  heard  her  sing. 
Upward  it  broke,  a  bubbled  mirth, 
A  fugitive  and  amazing  thing. 
It  flashed  before  his  crazy  feet, 
He  danced  therein,  it  would  not  stay, 
His  hands  upon  its  brightness  beat, 
But  still  it  broke  and  beamed  away. 
'O  bird !'  he  cried :  'if  bird  you  are ! 
Keep  still  your  frantic  wings  a  while!—' 
He  danced  beneath  an  evening  star, 
And  sought  to  capture  it  by  guile. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

But  fragrance  died  upon  a  gust, 
And  radiance  on  the  darkness  died, 
And  all  he  kept  was  pollen  dust ; 
Poor  soul  that  cried  and  cried. 


The  moon  rose,  and  the  moon  set; 
And  the  stars  rushed  up  and  whirled  and  set; 
And  again  they  swarmed,  after  a  shaft  of  sunlight; 
And  the  blue  dusk  closed  above  him,  like  an  ocean  of 

White  fires  were  lit  upon  the  tops  of  towers, 
Monstrous  and  black  the  towers  shouldered  the  sky. 
The  ghostly  fountain  shot  and  tumbled  in  showers, 
Gaunt  leaves  leaned  down  above  it,  thirstily. 
The  gold  fish,  and  the  fish  with  fins  of  silver, 
Quivered  in  lamplight,  rose  with  sinister  eye, 
And  darted  into  the  darkness,  silently. 


The  faces  that  looked  at  him  were  his  own  faces, 

Ghastly  and  pale  with  unfulfilled  desire. 
They  streamed  along  the  streets,  they  licked  like  fire, 
Flowed  with  undulant  paces, 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Reflected  in  the  darkness  stared  at  him, 

Contemplative,  despairing, 

Swept  silently  aside,  becoming  dim, 

With  a  vague  impotent  gesture  at  the  sky, 

Uncontrolled  and  little  caring. 

And  he  watched  them  with  an  introspective  eye. 

To  shape  this  world  of  leaderless  ghostly  passions — 
Or  else  be  mobbed  by  it — there  was  the  riddle. 
Green  leaves  above  him  whispered  the  slow  question, 
Black  ripples  on  the  pool  chuckled  of  passions. 
And  between  the  uneasy  shoulders  of  two  trees, 
Huge  against  impalpable  gust  of  blue, 
A  golden  star  slipped  down  to  leafy  seas, 
A  star  he  somehow  knew. 

Youths  came  after  him,  laughing,  but  he  fled  them: 
He  heard  them  mock  him,  in  affected  tones. 
Their  lamia  mouths,  so  smiling,  bade  him  dread  them. 
Their  hands  were  soft,  but  cold  as  stones. 
His  own  face  leered  at  him,  with  timid  lust, 
Was  overwhelmed  with  night. 
He  turned  aside,  and  walked  in  graveyard  dust,— 
In  the  soft,  dew-dabbled,  clinging  dust, — 

The  Charnel  Rose 

And  terror  seized  him,  seeing  the  stones  so  white, 
And  the  wet  grass,  frozen  and  motionless  in  moon 

And  the  green-tongued  moonlight   crawling  in  thick 

Was  it  murky  vapor,  here,  that  dulled  the  stars? 

Or  his  own  guilty  breath  that  clouded  heaven? 

Pale  hands  struck  down  with  spades. 

And  it  was  he,  with  dew  upon  his  face, 

Who  dug  the  raw  earth  in  that  dripping  place, 

Turning  his  back  on  heaven. 

And  it  was  he  who  found  the  desired  dead, 

And  kissed  the  languid  and  dishevelled  head; 

While  shadows  frisked  about  him  in  the  moonlight, 

Whirled  and  capered  and  leapt, 

Caught  each  other  and  mimicked  lust  in  the  moonlight, 

In  the  dew-wet  dust,  above  the  dead  who  slept. 

But  this — was  it  this  he  rose  from  and  desired? 
Black  mould  of  leaves  clung  wetly  about  his  feet. 
He  was  lost,  and  alone,  and  tired, 
A  mist  curled  round  him  coldly,  kissed  his  face, 
Shadows  with  eyes  were  gathering  in  that  place, 
And  he  dreamed  of  a  lamplit  street. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

But  roses  fell  thickly  through  the  darkness, 

They  writhed  before  him  out  of  the  mould, 

They  opened  their  hearts  to  pour  out  darkness, 

Darkness  of  flesh,  of  lust  grown  old, 

Black  mist  of  sin.     He  struggled  against  them,  beat, 

Broke  them  with  hands  to  feel  their  blood  flow  warm, 

Reeled,  when  they  opened  their  hearts,  vertiginous, 


Feeling  them  with  their  eyes  closed  push  and  swarm, 
Clinging  about  his  throat,  pressing  his  mouth, 
Beating  his  temples,  striving  to  choke  his  breath  .  .  . 
Help,  you  stars ! — wet  darkness  showered  upon  him. 
He  was  dissolved  in  a  deep  cold  dream  of  death. 

White  fires  were  lit  upon  the  tops  of  towers, 
Monstrous  and  black  the  towers  shouldered  the  sky. 
The  ghostly  fountain  shot  and  tumbled  in  showers, 
Gaunt  leaves  leaned  down  above  it,  thirstily. 
The  gold  fish,  and  the  fish  with  fins  of  silver, 
Quivered  in  lamplight,  rose  with  sinister  eye, 
And  darted  into  the  darkness  silently. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

And  he  looked  with  laughter  upon  the  lamplit  ripples 
Each  with  its  little  image  of  the  light, 
And  thought  the  minds  of  men  were  like  black  ripples, 
Ripples  of  darkness,  darkly  huddled  in  night, 
Each  of  them  with  its  image  of  lamp  or  star, 
Thinking  itself  the  star. 

And   it    seemed   to    him,    as    he   looked   upon    them, 


That  he  was  the  star  they  all  in  fright  reflected. 
He  was  the  god  who  had  been  rejected, 
Stoned  and  trampled  upon  in  a  filthy  street, 
Hung  up  in  lamplight  for  young  men  to  beat, 
Cursed  and  spat  upon;  and  all  for  saying 
There  was  no  life  save  life  of  fast  and  praying  .  .  . 
Or  had  he  been  a  beggar,  with  bare  feet  ? 
Or  a  cruel  ascetic,  trampling  roses  down  ? 
Roses  are  death,  he  said.     He  turned  in  hatred, 
And  saw  red  fires  burst  up  above  the  town, 
And  a  swarm  of  faces  rising,  green  with  hatred. 

And  silence  descended,  on  dripping  trees: 

And  dew-spats  slowly  dropped  from  leaves  to  stones. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

He  had  walked  these  gardens,  he  thought,  before. 

The  fountain  chuckled  familiar  tones; 

The  leaves  rustled,  like  whispers  along  a  shore. 

And  the  moon  rose,  and  the  moon  set; 
And  the  stars  rushed  up  and  whirled  and  set; 
And  again  they  swarmed,  after  a  shaft  of  sunlight ; 
And  the  blue  dusk  closed  above  him,  like  an  ocean  of 


The  Charnel  Rose 


Though  seen  but  once,  he  dreamed  of  her. 

She  stood,  with  half -remembered  eyes, 

In  windy  sunlight,  sinister, 

Her  bright  hair  dark  against  the  skies. 

Pale  sands  ran  out  beneath  his  feet, 

Breath  left  his  mouth.     He  turned  and  fell. 

Before  him  fled  her  laughter,  fleet,     4  *^ 

And  lost  itself  in  ocean-swell. 

Cold  spray  blew  faint  upon  his  face, 

And  golden  sunlight  warmed  it  there. 

She  ran,  with  half-remembered  grace, 

Lifting  a  hand  to  touch  her  hair, 

Turned  once  to  laugh,  then,  without  sound, 

Entered  a  surf  of  leaves.     He  called, 

But  his  own  echoes  mocked  him  round, 

On  all  sides  he  was  greenly  walled. 

O  eyes  of  music,  mouth  of  fire! 

O  hands  like  water  in  the  sun ! 

Up,  out  of  darkness  swam  desire, 

The  drowsy-faced,  the  lovely  one. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

O  throat  of  leaf,  O  flesh  of  flame ! 

O  voice  like  rain  upon  the  grass ! 

He  woke  in  ecstasy  and  shame, 

And  through  the  blackness  saw  her  pass, — 

Like  music  in  a  lonely  place, 

Above  the  sky,  beneath  the  sea, — 

Bearing  a  light  before  her  face 

In  meditative  ecstasy. 


And  the  moon  rose,  and  the  moon  set, 
And  the  stars  rushed  up  and  whirled  and  set ; 
And  again  they  swarmed,  after  a  shaft  of  sunlight; 
And  the  blue  dusk  closed  above  him,  like  an  ocean  of 

And  he  looked  up  through  the  black  mute  leaves  of 


Sick  of  the  lanterns  and  the  sound  of  laughter, 
Sick  of  the  febrile  breeze, 

And  silently  answered  the  stars,  that  spoke  in  silence ; 
The  large  bright  stars  that  swam  above  this  night, 
Making  a  golden  luminousness  of  silence ; 

The  Charnel  Rose 

And  it  seemed  to  him,  at  last,  that  they  were  kin, 
They  understood  each  other; 

For  he  was  sick  of  lanterns  and  the  sound  of  laughter, 
Sick  of  the  febrile  breeze. 

Was  it  in  this,  then,  that  the  secret  lay : 
Was  this  the  holy  flower  of  moonlight  and  sunlight : 
The  drunken  nuptials  of  night  and  day ; 
The  golden  pollen,  the  silver  dust, 
Fire  in  the  heart  forever,  light  in  the  eyes, 
Feet  like  flame  for  the  earth,  and  wings  for  the  skies  ? 
Lotos  of  night,  unclose !     He  sank  in  darkness, 
And  the  moonlight  lapped  about  him,  like  an  ocean; 
And  the  tongues  of  moonlight  laughed,  like  tongues 
of  sleep. 

True,   there   was   darkness.     But   darkness   could  be 


Love  would  be  light.     He  walked  a  narrow  ledge, 
Clinging  to  wet  black  rocks,  to  crumbling  mosses, 
While  the  huge  seas  licked  at  him,  hungry,  in  silence, 
White  with  fury,  persistent  with  despair; 
And  serpents'  tongues  of  blue  fire  flickered  in  silence. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

And  he  yearned  for  the  lanterns,  now,  and  the  quiet 


And  the  chuckle  of  silver  fountains  under  trees  .  .  . 
He  smiled,  and  closed  his  eyes  to  feel  the  breeze, — 
This  breeze  that  crept  among  the  lamplit  tulips, 
And  lazily  shook  the  stars  upon  the  water  .  .  . 
And  he  thought  himself  a  star  on  trembling  water, 
A  breath  among  the  tulips, 
Or  the  love  of  passionate  lovers  in  this  night, 
Brimming  the  air  with  light. 

Lie  still,  O  earth  of  night-time !     Fires  are  rising, 

Invisible  hidden  fires  that  flow  and  mingle; 

Under  the  rocks  they  glow,  the  pale  sands  melting, 

From  the  deep  central  heart  of  smouldering  blossom. 

The  dark  air  trembles, 

Palpitant  sing  the  leaves;  the  grass-blades  quiver. 

And  now  the  little  flames  come  like  soft  flowers, 

Silently  through  the  grass,  the  mouldered  leaves, 

Lapping  in  purple  and  yellow, 

Licking  in  saffron  or  green,  or  gauzy  azure, 

From  the  numberless  mouths  of  earth; 

Wavering  ghostlike  over  the  quiet  water, 

Rippling  along  the  outspread  boughs  of  trees. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Magic  of  dust !    His  heart  took  fire  with  laughter. 

He  was  the  fountain's  smouldering  shaft  of  white, 

The  pool  that  trembled  with  laughter, 

Golden  ripples  that  ribbed  the  black  with  light. 

Speed,  earth !  Let  day  begin.  The  grey  leaves  shiv 

Stars,  in  the  clouds,  rode  down;  their  hooves  were 


And  at  times  it  seemed, 

Walking  with  her  of  whom  he  subtly  dreamed, 
That    her    young   body    was    tinged    with    wavering 


Hover  of  fire, 

And  that  she  went  and  came, 
Impalpable  fiery  blossom  of  desire, 
Into  his  heart  and  out  of  his  heart  again, 
With  every  breath;  and  every  breath  was  pain. 

And  though  he  touched  her  hand,  she  drew  away, 
Becoming  someone  vast;  and  stretched  her  hair 
Suddenly,  like  dark  rain,  across  the  sun. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Till  he  grew  fearful,  seeing  her  there, 

To  think  that  he  loved  such  a  one, 

Who  rose  against  the  sky  to  shut  out  day. 

But  at  times  it  seemed, 

Walking  with  her  of  whom  he  sweetly  dreamed, 

(O  music  beneath  the  sea!) 

That  she  was  flame  of  earth  no  less  than  he; 

Among  the  leaves  her  face 

Gleamed  with  familiar  grace; 

And  walking  slowly  through  old  gardens, 

Among  the  cool  blue  cedars, 

Spreading  her  hands  in  the  silent  dazzle  of  sunlight, 

Her  voice  and  the  air  were  sweetly  married, 

Her  laughter  trembled  like  music  out  of  the  earth, 

Her  body  was  like  the  cool  blue  cedars, 

Fragrant  in  sunlight. 

And  he  quivered,  to  think  that  he  was  the  blade,  in 

To    flash,    and    strip    these    boughs,    and    spill    their 


1 20 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Wind  hurried  the  last  year's  leaves,  their  shadows 


And  clouds  blew  down  the  sky. 
Where  would  they  be,  with  a  year  gone  by? 
Let  us  be  quick :  there  is  time  to  overcome : 
The  earth  grows  old,  the  moon  is  already  dead, 
But  you  are  young,  you  tremble  because  you  love  me, 
It  is  all  we  have.     Let  nothing  more  be  said. 

What  do  we  care  for  a  star  that  floats  down  heaven, 

That  fiery  tear  of  time? 

It  spoke  to  us  once,  it  will  not  speak  again, 

It  will  be  no  more  remembered  than  last  year's  rain; 

There  will  be  other  dusks  for  us  to  walk  through, 

And  other  stars  will  float  down  heaven. 

Time  is  undone :  between  our  hands  it  slips, 

Goes  out  between  us,  the  breath  upon  our  lips. 

Do  not  look  over  your  shoulder  to  see  it  falling! 
Shadows  gather  and  brood,  under  the  trees. 
The  world  grows  silent,  it  listens  to  hear  us  walking; 
Let  the  star  perish :  we  wander  as  we  please  .  .  . 
Or  is  the  earth  beneath  us  an  old  star  falling? 
Falling  through  twilight  to  leafy  seas? 


The  Charnel  Rose 

The  night  grows  damp :  I  will  take  your  arm. 
Follow  the  lanterns,  lest  we  come  to  harm, 


Green-fingered  dryad,  come  out  of  your  oak-tree! 
Flash  from  your  pool,  blue  nymph! 
Leaves  have  whispered  your  secret,  sands  have  be 
trayed  you, 

Water-lilies  have  told  of  your  hearts. 
Cold  and  golden  and  green-gleamed  white, 
Moist  and  naked  and  frail : 

These  are  your  hearts.     Come  out,  green-fingered ! 
Rise  from  your  pool,  blue  nymph. 

She  that  I  knew  by  the  sphinx 

Imperceptibly  shrinks  in  your  eyes. 

The  lotus  uncloses  and  glistens, 

I  drink  of  your  mouth  in  the  dark. 

Cold  ripples  chuckle,  white  bubbles  whisper, 

Your  face  is  drowsy  with  love. 

You  stretch  slow  arms  in  the  moonlight 

And  pretend  to  be  watching  the  skies. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Now  you  no  longer  escape  me — I  have  you ! 

This  is  you,  this  light  in  my  fingers; 

This  air  in  my  palm! 

These  grains  of  sand  are  worlds  of  sunlight; 

These  grains  of  dust  are  worlds  of  moonlight; 

I  give  them  to  you  that  you  may  love  them, 

Tawny  nasturtium. 

Rain  slowly  falls  in  the  sleepy  garden; 

It  patters  and  purrs  and  seethes. 

How  the  young  grass  rejoices  in  cool  bubbles! 

It  drinks  cold  silver. 

The  slow  drops  that  fall  from  the  eaves 

Dig  little  holes  among  pebbles ; 

Or  patter  and  glance  from  laurel  leaves, 

In  tiny  shatters  of  fire. 

It  rains,  and  the  streets  are  dark; 

The   leaves   make   a   mournful   sound   in   the   hidden 


It  rains  and  the  streets  are  cold  .  .  . 
But  you,  who  walked  alone  beside  that  sea, 
Or  tossed  your  hands  into  sunlight  out  of  foam, — 
You  that  I  never  thought  to  capture, — 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Hearing  the  rain,  you  cling  to  me  all  night  long; 

Hearing  the  rain  sing  a  mournful  song 

You  hold  my  head  on  your  breast  and  cling  to  me  .  .  . 

Green  hills  with  sunlight  flecked,  and  azure  shadows, 
Brown  hills  and  blue,  run  down  beneath  my  feet. 
The  sea  mourns,  and  the  sheep  are  scattered. 
Tired  of  the  shrill  flute,  I  cry  through  the  evening. 
The  stars  are  rising  and  I  desire  you. 
We  will  desert  our  gods  and  meet. 

Do  we  brush  the  dust   from  the  petal  by  too  much 


Is  the  clear  dew  swept  from  the  grass? 
I  am  consumed  with  grief 
For  the  dark  wet  bruise  on  the  leaf  .  .  . 
But  the  seconds  drip  like  raindrops,  the  blown  stars 


I  fear,  at  the  end  of  night  our  hearts  must  pass : 
Let  us  drink  this  night  while  we  have  it,  let  us  drink 

it  all. 

If   I   should  destroy  you!      But   could   I   destroy  by 

loving  ? 
Trust  me,  this  night ! 

The  Charnel  Rose 

0  my  beloved,  I  dread  some  death  in  this, 
Something  there  is  that  perishes  with  the  kiss, 

1  hear  in  your  heart  the  grief  of  autumnal  rains, 
The  lapping  of  mirthless  sea-waves  along  your  veins. 
Is  it  you,  I  hold?     Is  it  you?     Or  the  earth,  or  the 

Answer  me  with  your  mouth  and  cling  to  me. 

Rain  slowly  falls  in  the  sleepy  garden; 

It  rains:  and  the  streets  grow  dark. 

The  leaves  make  a  sorrowful  sound  in  the  hidden 

garden ; 

It  rains,  and  the  streets  grow  cold. 
These  are  my  hands  that  tremble  upon  your  face, — 
Trembling  lest  love  depart  from  our  shadowy  place; 
Lest  suddenly  in  my  arms  you  become  a  sea 
Sending  your  numberless  waves  to  foam  at  me. 


White  fires  were  lit  upon  the  tops  of  towers,  .^ 

Monstrous  and  black  the  towers  shouldered  the  sky. ' 
The  ghostly  fountain  shot  and  tumbled  in  showers, 
Gaunt  leaves  leaned  down  above  it  thirstily. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

The  gold  fish,  and  the  fish  with  fins  of  silver, 
Quivered  in  lamplight,  rose  with  sinister  eye, 
And  darted  into  the  darkness,  silently. 

To  shape  this  chaos  of  leaderless  ghostly  passions — 
Or  else  be  mobbed  by  it — there  was  the  question. 
Dry  leaves  above  him  whispered  the  slow  question, 
Black  ripples  on  the  pool  chuckled  of  passions. 
And  through  the  shadows  drifted  his  own  white  face, 
With  ashes  in  his  eyes,  where  before  was  fire; 
And  he  sorrowed  for  himself  in  that  strange  place, 
And  for  a  once  more  unfulfilled  desire. 

Were  the  hands  of  lust  red  with  the  murder  of  love? 
And  must  desire  forever  defeat  its  end? 
He  was  tired  of  this :  he  yearned  for  death. 
He  turned,  but  met  himself  again  in  darkness, 
Pacing  noiselessly,  like  a  ghost,  through  darkness; 
And  upon  his  face  came  coldly  his  own  breath. 

These  hideous  roses,  he  would  destroy  them  all, 
Bruise  them,  and  crush  them  down,  under  his  feet, 
They  choked  his  heart,  he  felt  them  push  and  crawl, 

The  Charnel  Rose 

They  clambered  on  him,  they  writhed,  they  swarmed 

and  rotted, 

Feeding  their  rankness  on  him  as  on  a  grave  .  .  . 
Help,  you  stars  !     Wet  darkness  showered  upon  him ; 
He  dreamed  of  death,  that  death  alone  could  save. 

Cold  wind  dissolved  him.     White  foam  seethed  above 


Green  darkness  drank  him  down. 
Here  was  a  cold  full  music  like  an  ocean 
Wherein  to  sink  from  death  to  death  and  drown  .  .  . 
Fishes  gaped  at  him,  with  eyes  like  lanterns. 
The  sea-floor  spread  to  take  him,  smooth  and  brown. 
Under  this  ocean,  were  there  no  desires? — 
The  sands  bubbled,  and  roses  shot  soft  fires  .  .  . 

And  skeletons  whizzed  before  him,  and  whistled  be 
hind  him, 

And  heavily  danced  whenever  the  shadows  hid  them, 
And  stormed  dead  roses  about  his  feet ; 
Flash,  bright  scythe  of  death !     They  danced  forever. 
He  heard  their  tireless  footsteps  beat  and  beat. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

And  the  music  he  had  heard  so  long  ago, 

Now  growing  fainter  and  fainter,  seemed  ever  to  grow 

Sweeter  and  more  desirable.     He  heard 

Far  off  a  sound  of  surf ;  and  something  stirred 

Memory  of  a  woman  once  seen  there, 

Lifting  in  moonlight  a  golden  weight  of  hair: 

A  woman  who  fled  before  him,  looking  backward 
To    laugh    in    the    moonlight,    always,    before    she 

vanished : 

A  woman  of  fire,  a  woman  of  earth, 
Dreamed  of  on  every  star,  in  every  birth. 
O  laughter,  heard  so  little,  lost  so  soon ! 
Come    back!— Thus    moans    the    sea    to    the    falling 

moon  .  .  . 

And  the  moon  rose ;  and  the  moon  set ; 
And  the  stars  rushed  up,  and  whirled,  and  set; 
And  again  they  swarmed,  after  a  shaft  of  sunlight ; 
And  the  blue  dusk  closed  above  him,  like  an  ocean  of 

The  Charnel  Rose 

PART  ill. 

Bright  hair,  tumbled  in  sunlight,  and  sunlit  feet, 
Light  hands  lifting  in  air, — 
They  are  gone  forever ;  they  are  no  longer  sweet ; 
And  the  slow  dusk  settles  downward,  a  blue  despair. 

She,  whose  mouth  I  was  once  so  crazed  with  kissing, 
Whose  eyes  were  like  deep  fires, — 
The  grass  that  puffs  in  the  fields  is  far  more  lovely; 
Less  than  the  dust  is  she  to  dead  desires. 

Now  let  the  shadows  lengthen  and  creep  before  me, 
And  the  old  men  die  in  the  street  : 
Let  the  sun  pass:  we  seek  fantastic  darkness. 
Let  the  sun  pass.     Shadows  are  far  more  sweet. 

Light  now  the  lanterns,  and  let  us  see  our  faces, 
New  friends  of  goblin  birth! — 

Ah,  but  the  heart  sinks,  leaving  thus  that  sunlight, — 
The  lovers  of  youth,  the  young  bright  sinister  earth. . . 


The  Charnel  Rose 

He  turned,  and  saw  the  world  go  down  behind  him, 
Into  the  sounding  darkness,  as  into  a  sea. 
Voices  out  of  the  tumult  cried  to  remind  him, 
Wailed,  and  were  lost  in  wind ; 

Desolate  darkness,  the  darkness  of  sad  adventure, 
Peril  with  watchful  eyes, 

Shut  closely  about  him.     Night  blew  out  the  lanterns. 
Cold  clouds  devoured  the  skies. 


Wild  scarlet  crackled  and  crawled  and  gleamed; 
He  reeled  in  a  poppy  field  and  dreamed : 
Sun-blots  dizzied  beneath  his  eyes 
And  fire  licked  angrily  at  the  skies. 
Cold  thumbs  against  his  hot  lids  pressed, 
His  heart  dissolved,  he  lay  at  rest; 
And  before  him  over  red  fields  ran 
A  shape  half  woman  and  half  man. 

Cymbals  clashed.     Their  sound  was  scarlet, 
Singing  scarlet  in  his  brain, 
Red  mouths  blossomed  out  of  darkness, 
And  the  grass  grew  red  with  pain. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Before  him  over  red  fields  ran 

A  shape  half  woman  and  half  man, 

He  could  not  see  that  taunting  face, 

For  green  boughs  backward  sprang  in  place. 

He  ran,  and  in  the  yellow  sun 

The  scarlet  field  grew  dry  and  dun. 

His  feet  were  scorched,  and  he  fell  down, 

Seeing  the  whole  world  parch  to  brown. 

Horns  prolonged  were  blown  in  silver, 
Wailing  silver  in  his  brain; 
Mercury  eyes  in  darkness  trembled; 
And  his  dream  was  cleft  with  pain.    ^^ 


Red  is  the  color  of  blood,  and  I  will  seek  it : 
I  have  sought  it  in  the  grass. 
It  is  the  color  of  steep  sun  seen  through  eyelids. 

It  is  hidden  under  the  suave  flesh  of  women, — 

Flows  there,  quietly  flows. 

It  mounts  from  the  heart  to  the  temples,  the  singing 

mouth — 
As  cold  sap  climbs  to  the  rose. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

I  am  confused  in  webs  and  knots  of  scarlet 

Spun  from  the  darkness ; 

Or  shuttled  from  the  mouths  of  thirsty  spiders. 

Madness  for  red!    I  devour  the  leaves  of  autumn. 

I  tire  of  the  green  of  the  world. 

I  am  myself  a  mouth  for  blood  .  .  . 

Here,  in  the  golden  haze  of  the  late  slant  sun, 

Let  us  walk,  with  the  light  in  our  eyes, 

To  a  single  bench  from  the  outset  predetermined. 

Look :  there  are  seagulls  in  these  city  skies, 

Kindled  against  the  blue. 

But  I  do  not  think  of  the  sea-gulls,  I  think  of  you. 

Your  eyes,  with  the  late  sun  in  them, 

Are  like  blue  pools  dazzled  with  yellow  petals. 

This  pale  green  suits  them  well. 

Here  is  your  ringer,  with  an  emerald  on  it: 

The  one  I  gave  you.     I  say  these  things  politely— 

But  what  I  think  beneath  them,  who  can  tell? 

The  Charnel  Rose 

For  I  think  of  you,  crumpled  against  a  whiteness; 
Flayed  and  torn,  with  dulled  face. 
I  think  of  you,  writhing,  a  thing  of  scarlet, 
And  myself,  rising  red  from  that  embrace. 

November  sun  is  sunlight  poured  through  honey: 
Old  things,  in  such  a  light,  grow  subtle  and  fine. 
Bare  oaks  are  like  still  fire. 
Talk  to  me :  now  we  drink  the  evening's  wine. 
Look,  how  our  shadows  creep  along  the  gravel ! — 
And  this  way,  how  the  gravel  begins  to  shine ! 

This  is  the  time  of  day  for  recollections, 

For  sentimental  regrets,  oblique  allusions, 

Rose-leaves,  shrivelled  in  a  musty  jar. 

Scatter  them  to  the  wind !     There  are  tempests  coming. 

It  is  dark,  with  a  windy  star. 

If  human  mouths  were  really  roses,  my  dear, — 

(Why  must  we  link  things  so? — ) 

I  would  tear  yours  petal  from  petal  with  slow  murder. 

I  would  pluck  the  stamens,  the  pistils, 

The  gold  and  the  green, — 

Spreading  the  subtle  sweetness  that  was  your  breath 

On  a  cold  wave  of  death  .  .  . 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Now  let  us  walk  back,  slowly,  as  we  came. 

We  will  light  the  room  with  candles;  they  may  shine 

Like  rows  of  yellow  eyes. 

Your  hair  is  like  spun  fire,  by  candle-flame. 

You  smile  at  me — say  nothing.    You  are  wise. 

For  I  think  of  you,  flung  down  brutal  darkness ; 
Crushed  and  red,  with  pale  face. 
I  think  of  you,  with  your  hair  disordered  arid  dripping, 
And  myself,  rising  red  from  that  embrace. 


Music,  withdrawing  to  a  point  of  silence, 

Took  his  heart  down  over  the  edge  of  the  world : 

Cliffs,  and  the  sea  and  stars. 

Sleep  might  be  merciful,  if  it  were  dreamless, 

But  sleep  was  a  rage  of  winds. 

If  there  were  only  green  leaves  to  assuage  him — 

But  the  leaves  were  dead. 

Dusk,  withdrawing  to  a  single  lamplight 

At  the  end  of  an  infinite  street — 

He  saw  his  ghost  walk  down  that  street  forever, 

And  heard  the  eternal  rhythm  of  his  feet. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

And  if  he  should  reach  at  last  that  final  gutter, 

To-day,  or  to-morrow, 

Or,  maybe,  after  the  death  of  himself  and  time; 

And  stand  at  the  ultimate  curbstone  by  the  stars, 

Above  dead  matches,  and  smears  of  paper,  and  slime; 

Would  the  secret  of  his  desire 

Blossom  out  of  the  dark  with  a  burst  of  fire? 

Or  would  he  hear  the  eternal  arc-lamps  sputter, 

Only  that;  and  see  old  shadows  crawl; 

And  find  the  stars  were  street  lamps  after  all? 

Music,  quivering  to  a  point  of  silence, 

Drew  his  heart  down  over  the  edge  of  the  world  .  .  . 


Dancers  arose;  he  had  not  seen  them; 
Hissing  cymbals  clashed; 

Scarlet  and  green  together  writhed  in  darkness, 
Billows  of  saffron  rolled  against  the  darkness, 
White  arms  shot  up,  eyes  flashed, 
The  grass  rose  vivid  green  against  the  black  .  .  . 
But  this  was  idle.     His  youth  could  not  come  back. 
And  the  sharp  brief  flute-notes  perished  for  lack  of 

breath ; 
The  great  cymbals  were  stilled  with  a  hiss  of  death; 

The  Charnel  Rose 

The  dancers  fell  in  thick  dust,  one  by  one. 

The  stars  rose  slowly  out  of  streams  of  fire. 

The  dancers  blossomed  and  vanished  under  the  sun. 

And  the  music  whispered  down  to  a  breath  of  silence, 
Sighing  his  heart  down  over  the  edge  of  the  world. 


He  reeled  in  a  poppy  field,  and  dreamed: 
Live  scarlet  crackled  and  crawled  and  gleamed; 
And  before  him,  over  red  fields,  ran 
A  shape  half  woman  and  half  man  .  .  . 

Sickly  petals  were  loosely  shed: 

No  more  the  rose,  the  yellow  bed. 

Like  a  dream  that  life  went  down 

Beneath  black  waves  and  white  to  drown  .  .  . 

Cold  cypresses,  in  formal  row, 

Marched  to  a  blue  hill,  bald  with  snow; 

Cold  flutes  on  shivering  air  were  blown, 

Thin  and  faint  in  sober  tone. 

The  scant  grass  dulled  beneath  his  feet, 

A  single  star  made  twilight  sweet ; 

The  Charnel  Rose 

And  he  went  forward,  smelling  there 
New  incense  on  the  haunted  air. 

Under  that  azure  cypress  grove 
He  saw  white  feet  like  silver  move, 
And  white  hands  deftly  lifted  up 
For  dusky  gleam  of  golden  cup; 
Voices  in  soft  speech  he  heard, 
Measuring  dust  in  every  word. 
Through  the  veins  of  men  like  these 
Flowed  warm  blood,  or  froth  of  seas? 
Reedy  were  these  hands:  and  chill. 
His  heart,  beneath  such  eyes,  lay  still. 

Roses  out  of  the  cool  earth  bloom, 
Flourishing  on  a  rainy  tomb; 
And  music  just  as  sweetly  springs 
From  rain-cold  silver  strings  .  .  . 
Feeding  on  pale  mouths,  he  learned 
That  they,  no  less  than  scarlet,  burned; 
Touching  hands  as  cold  as  sea, 
Foam  in  fire  they  seemed  to  be. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Was  this  a  dream, — or  life,  no  less? 
His  soul  was  drenched  with  weariness. 
Mercury  eyes  with  tremulous  stare 
Fed  upon  him  through  greenish  air; 
They  poisoned  him,  they  burned  his  brain, 
His  heart  grew  sick  with  a  yellow  pain. 

There  was  no  day,  but  always  night; 
The  leaves  on  all  the  trees  blew  white; 
And  yet,  within  them,  he  was  told, 
The  sap  flowed  reddish,  and  not  cold. 
Pale  hands, — drop  my  heart !  he  cried. 
They  pressed  around  him  to  deride. 

With  delicate  hands  they  plucked  at  him. 
With  delicate  mouths  they  leered  at  him. 
He  was  not  one  of  them,  said  they, — 
Only  the  dull  and  brutal  clay  .  .  . 
He  heard  them  mimic,  one  by  one, 
Out  of  his  blood.     He  saw  the  sun. 

And   cymbals   clashed :   he  thought  their   sound  was 

And  he  was  shouting  between  them,  a  thing  of  red. 

The  Charnel  Rose 


The  sun's  blood  turns  to  orange,  and  round  the  sky, 
Flows  in  a  broad  low  band. 

The  street  lamp  winks  in  the  twilight  a  dismal  eye. 
The  eternal  mistress  lifts  her  hand 
To  rearrange  for  the  millionth  time  her  hair, 
With  amber  things  out  of  an  ancient  tomb, 
For  the  deathless  lover  who  climbs  and  climbs  the 
stair  .  .  . 

The    stars   above   us, — they   are   like   pale   streaming 


Seen  by  a  sea-shape  in  translucent  noon, 
Cold  and  green,  breaking  to  disappear. 
Listen;  and  through  the  immortal  hush  you'll  hear, 
Persistent,  those  eternal  footsteps  climb, 
Up  creaking  gas-lit  stairs  in  perfect  time  ... 

What  does  it  matter  ?  there  are  white  sands  here : 

Rippled  with  secular  musings  of  the  sea. 

We  have  seen  her  comb  her  hair, 

With  her  elbows  shining  bare ; 

And  seen  her  turn  the  small  brown  sensuous  head; 

We  have  seen  old  roses  opening  by  a  mirror, 


The  Charnel  Rose 

And  darkness  filled  with  rain, 

And  the  hot  unsteady  lamplight  on  a  bed  .  .  . 

But  here,  in  the  sifted  dusk, 

Where  only  a  pure  light  settles  out  of  the  world, 

We  meet  in  eternal  quiet, — talk  musingly, — 

On  a  white  sand,  silvered  with  spectral  shells, 

Rippled  with  the  green  musings  of  the  sea. 

Something  there  is  in  roses — you  remember — 

That's  poisonous  and  red,  torrid,  malignant. 

There  was  a  savage  music  in  them 

Filling  the  innocent  blood  with  swarm  of  petals  .  . 

But  beloved,  now  we  are  free  .  .  . 

Now  we  are  set  in  a  love  of  deathless  shape, 

Immutable,  brooded  on  by  the  sea. 

Yet,  it  is  strange — behind  that  altar, 

Carved  with  cold  foam  of  time, 

Skeletons  lay :  I  saw  them  in  the  dusk. 

Shells  winked  between  the  ribs,  and  over  the  hands 

Rippled  the  obedient  sands  .  .  . 



The  Charnel  Rose 

The  sun's  blood  turns  to  orange,  and  round  the  sky 
Flows  in  a  broad  low  band. 
The  eternal  mistress  lifts  her  hand, 
To  rearrange  her  hair, 

For  the  deathless  lover  who  climbs  and  climbs  the 
stair  .  .  . 

Have  we  not  seen  him  climb, — or  climbed  ourselves, — 

Up  the  eternal  azure  of  those  stairs? 

Ridiculous,  to  those  who  stay  behind, 

Or  chuckle,  meditating,  from  afar: 

The  small  pathetic  back,  in  silhouette, 

Dwindling  against  a  star  .  .  . 

Why  do  we  muse  these  things  in  retrospect? 

Must  we,  being  cold, 

Reach  out  to  sunset  fires  to  warm  our  hands? 

It  is  as  if  we  were  growing  old; 

And  sought,  in  disillusionment,  to  cling 

To  something  loved  in  youth,  some  daybreak  thing. 

Something  about  you  fades  .  .  .   you  are  not  he 
Whom  I  saw  first,  with  starlight  in  your  eyes. 
Your  garments,  once  so  subtle, 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Dull  with  the  insistent  touch;  and  now  your  mind 
Is  a  garden  whose  pools  and  paths  I  know  too  well.  .  . 
This  is  the  pain  of  knowledge.     Good-bye,  dear  friend ! 
Between  us  mourns  the  surge  of  some  old  knell. 

Here's  change,  in  changelessness :  and  we  go  down, 

Once  more  to  the  old  chaos. 

Wild  hands  repel  and  cling,  the  rash  waves  break, 

A  windy  shout  of  voices  blows  behind  us, 

Once  more  we  are  forgotten,  and  forsake  .  .  . 

The  sun's  blood  fades  to  orange ;  and  now  the  sky 
Shrinks  to  a  faint  green  bubble  above  our  hands. 
The  gliding  street  lamp  winks  a  sinister  eye. 
Around  it  swirl,  grey  skeletons  on  the  sands. 

I  will  seek  the  eternal  secret  in  this  darkness, 
The  little  seed  that  opens  to  gulf  the  world. 


The  Charnel  Rose 


Through  the  deep  night,  the  night  of  forgetfulness, 

Men  ran  with  streaming  torches, 

Pale  mouths  shouted, 

Bright  fires  were  bristling  backward  on  the  wind; 

And  he  heard  fanatic  feet 

Ring  echoing  into  darkness  down  the  street  .  .  . 

Into  the  night  they  sank.     Bubbles  of  sound, 

Dilating  greenly  upward  through  the  darkness, 

Showed  him  where  men  had  drowned. 

What  towers  above  him  trembled?    Up  them  swarmed 
Thick  smoke  of  leaves,  a  fire  of  bursting  roses, 
Licking  the  windy  sky  .  .  . 
The  towers  were  smothered ;  they  crumbled  in  roar  of 

They  crashed  and  spouted.    And  when  they  showered 

before  him, 
Strange  things  rushed  out  of  them;  and  whistled  by. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

These  men  with  bristling  torches, 

Filling  the  darkness  with  terrible  cries  and  fire  .  .  . 

Falling  and  turning  and  sinking  into  the  night, 

Whipped  by  terror,  or  stung  by  desire, — 

These  were  himself,  rising  in  rage  against  him; 

The  sky  hung  red  and  bright; 

And  above  the  crash  of  walls  he  heard  a  cry, 

'The  time  has  come!     Now  let  the  tyrant  die.' 

But  a  sudden  quiet  dissolved  the  world: 

And  darkness,  like  slow  music, 

Filled  the  chaos  of  time  within  his  brain. 

A  waveless  silver  spread  before  him; 

The  floor  of  the  world  was  brimmed  with  level  silence ; 

And  he  walked  by  the  sea  again  .  .  . 

To  shape  this  world  of  leaderless  ghostly  passions, — 
Or  else  be  mobbed  by  it — there  was  the  riddle. 
Gaunt  leaves  above  him  whispered  the  slow  question; 
Black  ripples  on  the  pool  chuckled  of  passions. 
And  between  the  uneasy  shoulders  of  two  trees, 
Huge,  against  impalpable  breath  of  blue, 
A  golden  star  slipped  down  to  leafy  seas, 
A  star  he  somehow  knew. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Now  came  the  final  hour : 
Sweet  music,  silver  horns  and  silver  strings, 
Seduced  from  temporal  air  his  willing  feet. 
Below  him  sang  in  vain  that  scarlet  darkness. 
Now  should  the  infinite  soul  be  made  complete. 


I  bring  you  candles  of  soft  white  wax : 
Seven  candles  of  clear-eyed  flame. 
Black  webs  of  smoke  above  them  tremble. 
I  tremble,  too,  with  shame. 

For  your  white  face,  by  the  candlelight, 

Is  a  beauty  I  should  not  see. 

I  would  have  you  lean  down  out  of  your  frame 

And  glide  away  with  me. 

There  is  no  one  here.     Come  down,  I  pray! 
Soft  darkness  floods  the  air. 
I  will  caress  your  body  with  hands, 
And  stroke  your  moonlight  hair. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

I  will  praise  the  softness  of  your  face, 
The  whiteness  of  your  skin: 
The  mystic  marriage  is  blessed  with  feast, 
And  there  will  be  no  sin. 

I  will  unloose  your  precious  stones 
And  let  your  garments  fall, 
To  see  your  dazzling  nakedness 
And  so  consume  you  all. 

0  holy  lips !  unclose  for  me. 
Swift  pulses  shake  the  earth. 

1  am  lifted  up,  I  am  lifted  up, 

On  a  smooth  blue  wave  of  mirth : 

Invisible  veins  of  fire  there  are, 
Like  hot  gold  through  this  air : 
There  is  keen  flesh  beneath  my  flesh, 
A  breath  upon  my  hair  .  .  . 

I  bring  seven  candles  of  soft  white  wax — 
They  burn  with  a  saffron  flame. 
Black  webs  of  smoke  above  them  tremble  . 
I  tremble,  too,  with  shame. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

Rain  seethed  upon  him, — with  black  streaks  through 

the  day, 

With  white  streaks  through  the  night. 
Around  a  lantern  undulant  through  the  darkness 
He  saw  old  pale  leaves  fall. 
Silent  he  saw  them  swarming  over  the  light. 
Deep  darkness  drowned  them  all. 

Some  edge  there  is  in  love — at  the  beginning, — 
That  flashes  and  dims.     And  so  with  all  things  sought. 
He  was  an  old  white  leaf,  cold  with  the  rain. 
If  rain  dropped  upward  through  the  grass,  he  thought, 
And   fell   to   the   clouds — and  beyond  the   clouds  to 

stars  .  .  . 
Might  love  find  consummation? 

Let  us  invert  the  world. 

Let  us  delude  ourselves  that  dust  may  rise, 

That  earth  relents  at  last  .  .  . 

Red  lilies,  rapidly  growing,  bloom  in  the  darkness. 

A  pebble,  dropped,  is  flung  down  soundless  skies. 

The  Charnel  Rose 


He  turned  in  the  dusk,  and  saw  none  coming  behind 


He  listened,  and  heard  no  sound. 
'I  am  Christ!'  he  cried.     His  words  were  tossed  into 


Three  scarlet  leaves  of  a  maple  fell  to  the  ground. 
He  smiled  to  himself;  and  against  the  clear  green  sky 
Towered  in  black.    He  was  night.    The  stars  ran  high. 

But  he  felt  beneath  his  sandals  the  pushing  of  roses, 
And  did  not  dare  to  move. 

He  turned  in  the  night,  and  saw  no  shadow  behind  him, 

He  listened,  and  heard  no  voice. 

T  am  Christ!'  he  cried.     A  whisper  of  leaves  denied 


'And  while  I  live  no  more  shall  man  rejoice.' 
The  moon  rose,  huge  and  cold,  behind  a  hill : 
The  trees  shook  silver :  he  mused ;  the  night  grew  chill. 

Why  was  the  world  so  mute,  the  world  his  body? 
He  smiled,  to  think  it  slept. 

The  leaves  above  him  quivered  along  black  branches; 
Dew  dropped  beneath  white  stars. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

'It  is  the  third  day.     I  have  risen/  he  said. 
Among  the  dead  leaves,  whispers  crept. 

'How  did  I  know  it  was  time?     Perhaps  I  dreamed. 
The  dusk  of  the  third  day  came. 
I  lay  upon  stones.     A  shaft  of  the  low  sun  gleamed 
Through  a  single  crack,  and  a  cobweb  sang  like  flame. 
Petals  of  blood  had  purpled  those  grey  sands. 
And    the    great    rock    was    as    nothing    before    my 
hands  . 

'But  all  this  happened  before,  somewhere,  I  said! — 
In  this  same  twilight  I  strove  from  this  same  tomb : 
Lifting  with  dusty  hands  a  great  white  rock. 
My  eyes  were  dazzled  with  sun.     They  were  used  to 

I  saw  that  hill,  black,  on  a  sky  bright  red  ... 

'But  where,  then,  are  my  disciples?'   He  looked  behind 

And  the  blue  night  lay  still. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

'I  saw  black  bats,  as  I  had  seen  them  before, — 
In  the  sharp  twilight.     They  twittered  against  the  sky. 
But  it  seemed  to  me  that  I  stood  on  a  sinister  shore, 
Invisible  waves  before  me  surged  to  die  ... 
To  die?    There  is  no  death.     No  death!'    He  said. 
A    thick    bough    guarded    the    moonlight    from    his 
head  .  .  . 

Disembodied,  he  flowed  with  the  flow  of  night; 

Caught  up  with  stars  and  wind. 

The  moon  with  an  army  of  red  clouds  hurried  before 


In  a  silent  tremendous  haste. 
Seas  clashed  together  beneath  him;  they  roared  and 

showered ; 

Earth  shook  beneath  his  feet. 
And  he  stood  at  the  end  of  an  infinite  lamplit  street. 

He  rang  a  bell  in  the  streets ;  lifting  his  voice, 
Beneath  the  lamp  at  every  corner  he  cried 
'I  am  Christ  returned  from  the  dead. 
It  was  I  you  wounded,  I  that  you  crucified, 
It  was  I  who  wept  and  bled. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

Did  I  not  prophesy,  three  days  ago? 

You  sealed  a  great  white  rock  above  my  head. 

And  I  come  to  tell  you  the  things  you  do  not  know/ 

Laughter  rushed  round  him;   they  spat  upon  his  face; 
They  struck  him  and  beat  him  down. 
Thinking  him  dead,  they  left  him  in  that  place : 
Lying  against  an  old  wall,  crushed  and  bleeding, 
With  the  tremulous  lamplight  ghastly  on  his  face. 

And  children  mocked  at  him,  and  he  could  not  answer ; 

For  how  could  the  dead  explain 

That  all  was  predetermined,  and  all  immortal? 

How  could  he  make  it  clear, 

To  children  who  came  to  kick  him,  and  to  jeer, 

With  the  blood  so  slowly  struggling  through  his  brain, 

That  man's  salvation  only  rose  through  pain? 

Remote  this  was,  and  strange.     A  lamp  grew  dim, 
Drawn  to  a  vague  swift  streak  along  the  sky. 
A  sinister  planet  poised  to  revolve  on  him. 
He  was  a  soundless  motion.     He  could  not  cry. 
And  dark  things  whistled  beneath  him.     And  a  cold 

Bottomless,  gulfed  him  down.     And  he  was  afraid  .  .  . 

The  Charnel  Rose 

And  he  tossed  in  the  darkness,  as  one  who  in  fever 


Of  bathing  at  last  in  the  fullness  of  cold  streams, 
Bright,  beneath  leaves,  by  sand. 
Roses,  cover  my  body !     I  am  tired  of  struggle. 
Old  twilight,  take  my  hand! 

He  saw  a  green  hill,  clear,  in  the  evening  sky. 
Three  crosses  fell.    Night  came.    The  stars  flew  by. 


To  muse  in  the  afternoon  by  a  convent  wall, — 
Here,  at  the  bottom  of  a  vast  blue  well  of  sun ; 
To  watch  the  lazy  lizards  breathe  and  crawl, 
And  know  yourself  the  world  and  the  lizard  in  one : 
Let  us  lose  ourselves,  and  all  we  meditate, 
To  melt,  through  dream,  in  the  timeless  dream  of 
fate  .  .  . 

The  infinite  mind  uncloses  like  a  lotus, — 

And  we  are  the  heart  of  it.     Come, — take  my  hand! 

And  drift  with  the  drift  of  wind. 

You  a  note,  and  I  a  note, 

In  a  sea  of  music  we  tremble  and  fall  and  float. 

The  Charnel  Rose 

That  spinning  world  is  an  old,  old  recollection : 
It  dissolves  in  darkness.     But  the  mind  is  not  dis 

We  were  confused,  a  while,  in  loves  and  hatreds, 
We  fought  for  light  or  shade  .  .  . 
Now  all  is  changed :  we  climb  the  solid  air, 
This  azure  light  is  a  pinnacled  carven  stair. 

Now  what  you  muse  already  is  on  my  tongue: 
You  smile  and  utter  the  secrets  of  my  heart. 
Somewhere,  long  since,  there  was  a  pebble  flung: 
From  that  drowned  cry  we  start. 

Somewhere  I  blossom.     Somewhere  my  brown  leaves 


Somewhere  I  cry,  somewhere  I  sing  .  .  . 
Yet  we  are  musing  by  a  convent  wall  .  .  . 
In  a  depth  of  sun  ...  on  an  afternoon  in  spring  .  .  . 

We  must  escape  this  temporal  flesh  and  place, — 
Step  freely  away  in  dream  .  .  .   though  lizards  creep, 
Rustling  the  vines,  and  a  cool  air  chills  the  face ; 
A  pulse  of  menace  trembling  beneath  our  sleep. 


The  Charnel  Rose 

There  is  no  vine,  no  lizard !    We  draw  no  breath. 
We  are  the  soundless  ecstasy  of  death  .  .  . 

I  have  seen  bees,  poised  in  the  quiet  sun, 
Winnowing,  with  their  rapid  invisible  wings, 
Soft  Judas  petals  littered  upon  a  path  .  .  . 
I  must  forget  them.     I  must  forget  them  alb 
I  must  forget  this  sun, — myself, — this  wall. 

Here,  then,  at  last,  grown  weary  of  long  pursuing, 

We  find  the  perfect  darkness! 

The     infinite     spreads    before    us,    and    shrinks    to 

nothing  .  .  . 

Or  must  we  remember,  always,  that  sound  of  voices, 
Our  little  cave  of  dusk? 

Dancers  arose :  he  had  not  seen  them : 

Hissing  cymbals  clashed. 

The  great  rose  blossomed  with  a  clang  of  light 

And  withered  in  silent  fire. 

He  was  a  part  of  the  maniac  laughter  of  chaos ; 

The  rebellious  chaos  of  unfulfilled  desire. 

I '54] 

The  Charnel  Rose 


Twilight:  a  cold  green  sky  .  .  . 
Low  massed  clouds,  with  dazzling  sinister  edges, 
And  a  sea-gull,  falling  and  falling  in  high  pale  sun 
Daybreak  was  sweetest,  but  daybreak  must  die. 

Dusk, — the  encroachment  of  poisonous  shadows, 

The  leisurely  lighting  of  lamps ; 

And  a  gradual  silence  of  restless  trees. 

Along  wet  meadows,  shadows  to  darkness  freeze. 

Mist  of  twilight  in  my  heart: 
I  who  was  always  catching  at  fire. 
Mould  of  black  leaves  under  my  feet; 
I,  whose  star  was  desire. 

Earth  spins  in  her  shadow.    Let  us  turn  and  go  back 
To  the  first  of  our  loves — 

The  one  who  was  moonlight  and  the   fall  of  white 


The  Charnel  Rose 

We  are  struck  down.     We  hear  no  music. 
The  moisture  of  night  is  in  our  hands. 
Time  takes  us.     We  are  eternal. 




This  is  a  volume  of  verse  that  immediately  com 
mends  itself  to  serious  consideration.  There  is  so 
much  about  it  to  suggest  the  inspirational  mood,  so 
much  in  the  way  of  good,  sound  construction,  and, 
moreover,  such  a  pervading  wholesomeness,  that  it 
takes  rank  with  the  more  important  recent  publications 
of  poetry. —  The  Baltimore  News. 

There  is  an  undeniable  power  in  Mr.  Aiken's 
technique,  so  that  he  creates  his  mood  as  definitely  as 
does  orchestral  music.  Perhaps  there  will  not  be, 
during  the  whole  war,  a  better  epitome  of  the  drab, 
dream-like  misery  of  the  trenches  which  is  so  minutely 
pictured  in  Henri  Barbusse's  "Under  Fire"  than  Mr. 
Aiken's  poem  in  this  book,  "1915:  The  Trenches/' 

— The  Independent 

Despite  the  fact  that  he  is  one  of  the  youngest  and 
the  newest,  having  made  his  debut  less  than  four  years 
a^o,  he  demonstrates  in  "Nocturne  of  Remembered 
Spring"  that  he  is  eminently  capable  of  taking  a  solo 
part  with  Edgar  Lee  Masters,  Amy  Lowell,  James 
Oppenheim,  Vachel  Lindsay  and  Edwin  Arlington 
Robinson. — Detroit  News. 

Conrad  Aiken's  "Nocturne  of  Remembered  Spring" 
shows  a  steadily  increasing  mastery  of  his  special 
atmosphere. — Reedy's  Mirror. 

Black  cloth,  uniform  with  The  Jig  of  Forslin. 
Jacket  in  colors  by  Julie  Brown.  Net  $1.25 




A  novel  of  adventure  in  verse,  based  on  the  Freudian 
psychology,  and  containing  poetry  of  unusual  power 
and  beauty. 

"The  most  extraordinary  poem  of  the  year." 

— New  York  Independent 

"Forslin  is  not  a  man,  but  man  .  .  .  the  autobiography 
of  humanity." 

— William  Stanley  Braithwaite  in  Boston  Transcript 

"Mr.  Aiken  has  succeeded  better  than  anyone  else  in 

presenting  the  shadowland  between  dream  and  reality." 

— Edward  Garnett  in  the  Atlantic  Monthly 

His  work  has  sustained  power  and  a  beauty  of  its 
own. — Current  Opinion. 

There  is  a  strangeness  about  the  art  of  Conrad 
Aiken  that  makes  it  unique.  No  one  is  writing  just 
like  him  in  America  to-day. — Springfield  Union. 

The  poetry  of  Conrad  Aiken  is  colorful  and  reveals 
great  power  of  graphic  description,  of  passion  even. 

— Book  News  Monthly 

Purple  cloth,  uniform  with  Earth  Triumphant.  Four 
color  jacket  by  Dorothy  Pulis  Lathrop.  Net  $1.25 


14  DAY  USE 



This  book  is  due  on  the  last  date  stamped  below,  or 

on  the  date  to  which  renewed. 
Renewed  books  are  subject  to  immediate  recall. 

SEP  9 

MAR  2  01989 

LD  2lA-60m-3,'65 

General  Library 

University  of  California 





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